Tom McRae, writer of the Cybermen two-parter in Series 2 of Who, has the following to say in the (excellent) new issue of Doctor Who Magazine:
“Russell has introduced the concept of ‘show-runner’ to this country, and I think we’re going to see a lot of that. It was not a word people used five years ago, and that’s how much it’s changed because of Doctor Who,. Casualty now has a show-runner, and The Bill is going to have one – but at the moment Doctor Who is the only one, and that makes it different from everything else. At the moment when you submit a draft on another show, it disappears into the ether and gets passed around committees – with Doctor Who, you have Russell, you know where your script is going to and where your notes are coming from. It’s different when you have everything rooted in one person, because there he is, that’s the guy you need to persuade – there are no hidden agendas, no internal politics, you’ve just got him, so it does make it much more personal a show. So you have a meeting with Russell and take your notes from him, and that’s straight from the horse’s mouth and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Great. Apart that, from Red Dwarf III onwards, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor were definitely Red Dwarf‘s showrunners – they were Executive Producers, and also wrote the series. And in VII, Doug did the whole commissioning other writers thing. Who certainly isn’t the first programme in Britain to be run this way. And Dwarf isn’t unique, either – Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin were both writers, and credited as Associate Producers, of Drop The Dead Donkey.
Nonetheless, this resurgence of showrunners is most welcome. As Tom says later in the interview, TV needs people with vision to see things through. TV by it’s very nature needs and benefits from input from everybody – but leadership and vision has to come from the top, from one or two people. Let’s just hope it becomes the norm.