Showrunners

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.

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6 Responses to Showrunners

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  1. I’m always amused when the likes of Al Jean and Mike Reiss describe themselves as “show runners” on The Simpsons. In UK telly lingo, a runner is the lowest of the low – a teaboy and general dogsbody.

  2. If Who didn’t have someone like RTD in charge it would be a mess of people trying to stick their oar in resulting in disaster. Despite Russell writing the odd dodgy script here and there (while it was a decent enough story, I thought New Earth could have done without stuff like ‘chavtastic’, the forced Body Swap humour and trying to rip off the ‘just this once, everybody lives!’ ending of The Doctor Dances, not to mention some severely gaping plotholes, like how the Doctor can spray an INTRAVENOUS solution onto the ‘patients’ and that cures them, but anyway…) he has a good sense of what to do with the show. His chief plan of taking it back to family primetime viewing has paid off brilliantly. Can you imagine what would have happened if several BBC sheep had been placed in charge? It wouldn’t have gotten a second series.

    The more control you give someone with talent, the better the show turns out. The BBC learned that with Gervais/Merchant. Ch4 have know that for some time.

  3. And now the BBC are showing adverts that highlight this fact. “Would you bother to do this and this for these people with no experience? We did…” The clip they use to ram down how superb they were to take such a risk is THAT. FUCKING. DANCE.

  4. I’m a big fan of the show but am more than a little sick of the same bloody clip. 14 episodes of classic, well-observed and tightly-written comedy and all they want to highlight is a stupid dance.

  5. > The clip they use to ram down how superb they were to take such a risk is THAT. FUCKING. DANCE

    And not really such a huge risk considering there had already been one successful series before that particular episode.

  6. And Ricky Gervais had already featurred heavily in The 11 O’Clock Show and had his own chat show on Channel 4 before The Office.

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