By all accounts, it takes a unique breed of professional to be the showrunner of a syndicated strip. That’s because the top job on a strip has for a variety of reasons long been considered among the toughest gigs in show business.
For one thing, syndie showrunners work long hours. An average shooting day, for example, on “Ambush Makeover” easily runs anywhere from 12 to 17 hours, executive producer Chris Rantamaki said. “Entertainment Tonight” executive producer Linda Bell Blue, who launched spinoff “The Insider” this season, has admitted to sleeping on the floor of her office.
They have to make quick decisions too. Changes are sometimes made to “The Tony Danza Show” as late as 10 seconds before the show goes on the air-live, executive producer John Redmann said.
Then there’s the people-pleasing. While producing these Monday-through-Friday television shows, the top dogs have stars, guests, studios, stations, viewers, competitors and staff members to worry about.
What’s more, the longevity of a syndicated strip is never a sure thing, so executive producers have to be great at accentuating the positive, never letting downgrades get them down.
The work is not getting any easier either. According to the showrunners of this season’s nine new first-run strips, new challenges continued to pop up this fall, and they expect new obstacles to emerge with every season going forward. Among the newer hurdles strip producers have been facing are complications from the prime-time reality boom, which has lured away some key daytime producing talent and skewed expectations of some shows’ participants. “We can’t compete with the wish fulfillment,” said Thomas Klein, executive producer of “Pat Croce: Moving In.”
As difficult as the job may be, all nine showrunners of this season’s freshmen appear to embody the passion and perseverance that has characterized the syndication business since the days of bicycling.
It’s a group whose members obviously take pride in what they do, thrive on challenge, are generally optimistic, engender loyalty and dedication among their staffs and require little sleep.
Four of them-Ms. Blue, “Dance 360’s” Claude Brooks, “Life & Style’s” Ray Giuliani and “Home Delivery’s” Amy Rosenblum-are so enthusiastic, they do it on top of being in charge of other projects.
Profiles of the top dogs at the freshman strips of fall 2004 follow.