Showrunners: The Art Of Running A TV Show by Tara Bennett (book review).

If, like me, you missed the TV show about American TV series showrunners like I did, then this book, ‘Showrunners: The Art Of Running A TV Show’, will give you all the quotes of what they had to say. I’m not entirely if that was the way to go, though, because even in few pages in, there was such repetition or agreement that the answers tended to blend together and I had to focus on the sub-headings to see who was saying what. Fortunately, over the book I started to pay better attention although there was a still a lot of agreement between them.


It isn’t rocket science to realise that a showrunner is a writer-producer who manages the show they created. If anything, it’s akin to being director-producer in the film world. All aspects are explored here, including the more recent fame many of them are experiencing as viewers realise that the source of the material is them and not just the cast.

What I find interesting from these new showrunners is how things are changing in America. Due mostly to cable television over there the first part of the new year is no longer the pilot zone and this is spread over more evenly through the year. This is something that should have been done years ago to even out the chances of shows being made rather than too many good ones competing with each other at considerable expense for a series slot. Timing is everything after all and no one can predict that. Oddly, none of them discuss the half season breakthroughs which is how the likes of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ started off. Mind you, 13 episode series tend to be popular on cable, so either budget or something rubbed off on them.

Seeing how the writers have to work their way up through the industry to get their chance in the writers’ rooms still looks like a tough haul. Getting experience in how things work is one thing but it still relies far too much on who you know to get that break in the long run than purely by talent being recognised.

I can’t help wonder if writers in America whose ambition is to become a showrunner aren’t going to be put off by reading this book. After all, you have to be capable of multi-tasking, have all the answers and give up a social life. Hmmm…that sounds like being a website editor, although it’s hardly surprising most showrunners are burnt out by the age of 50. The oddest thing that doesn’t come out of this is just what qualifies the studio ‘suits’ to send their notes other than being higher up the totem pole. I would love to see a follow-up book exploring their role in depth just for insight.

I love the Steven Boscho quote how the power switches from the showrunner to the lead cast by third season. Is it any wonder that key cast end up getting an executive producer title?

This is a very informing book. Although I can understand using all the quotes and undoubtedly these came from the TV show, in book format, this does make it a tougher read than turning it into text and draw overall conclusions which could have allowed a little more analysis.

GF Willmetts

January 2015

(pub: Titan Books. 240 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $11.95 (US), $16.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-357-5)

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