TV’s Showrunner Crisis: Many Projects Struggle to Find Experienced Writing Producers

May 8, 2014  •  Post A Comment

The search for experienced showrunners around the end of the development season is becoming “an annual tradition,” writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com, with increasing numbers of newly picked-up series “in need of a seasoned showrunner every year.”

As an example, with NBC ordering four pilots to series on Wednesday, two of them — “Allegiance” and “State of Affairs” — don’t have showrunners.

So what’s going on? After all, it’s no surprise that the networks were going to make series orders, especially since many of the projects receiving orders were early front-runners.

“Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit-based system for growing writing producers,” Andreeva writes. “The very few staff writer jobs started going to mandatory minority hires and friends of writers or writers assistants.”

Andreeva adds: “While there is nothing wrong with that, the overall dearth of entry-level positions readily available to up-and-coming scribes has resulted in fewer writers getting trained as they go up the ranks, creating a big discrepancy with a lot of senior-level writers and green ones and very few middle-level writers with some experience who are ready to take on a show.”

Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or retiring, and there are few writers ready to take their place. “Cable has been a big A-list talent drainer, especially on the drama side,” Andreeva notes.

She points to John Shiban of “The X Files” as an example of that, as he was recently hired to serve as showrunner on the Starz series “Da Vinci’s Demons.”

john shiban.jpgJohn Shiban

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