Tag Archives: Showrunner

Cultural Interview: Lauren Iungerich on Writing Her Awkward. Finale [Part Two]

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In the second part of a two-part interview with Awkward. creator Lauren Iungerich, we consider the choices she made once she realized she was writing her final episode of the series (which I reviewed at The A.V. Club here), as well as some of the plans she had should she have remained involved with the show in its fourth season. You can find part one of the interview, where Iungerich reflects on her decision to leave the series, here.

[Spoilers for “Who I Want To Be,” the third season finale of MTV’s Awkward., throughout this interview.]

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Cultural Interview: Lauren Iungerich on the end of her Awkward. journey [Part One]

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Earlier this fall, I spoke with Awkward. creator Lauren Iungerich about the beginning of the second half of the third season, which was announced earlier this year as her final year with the series. Since then, Iungerich has been a regular presence in the comment section at The A.V. Club’s weekly reviews of the series, engaging with fans and reflecting on the end of her journey. As the season comes to an end with tonight’s hour-long season finale (10:30/9:30c, MTV), I spoke with Iungerich at length about her experience with the series and the end of her Awkward. journey. This is the first part of that conversation, in which she reflects on her departure and her engagement with her audience. Later tonight after the finale concludes, I will have an additional conversation where we focus on how she chose to bring an end to her time on the series. [NOTE: Part Two of the interview is now up.]

In the comments of last week’s A.V. Club review, you made a point to reflect on the contribution of Erin Ehrlich. As you depart the show, are you reflecting back on your collaborators throughout this journey?

Lauren Iungerich: It would not have been half of fun if I hadn’t had Erin by my side. I had an incredible team of people who helped me make the show. Steve Edwards, who was my supervising editor: editors never get credit the way they should. Editing is such an extension of the writing—sometimes you’re rewriting in the editing room, and he was kind of this magic…I don’t know how to explain it, but he really gets my tone, and the tone of the show, which can go from crazy heightened comedy to this emotional pathos. He really understood and connected with the material—I have to take him with me wherever I go. Also Jamie Dooner, my husband, has been a creative force since I was writing the pilot—his jokes and ideas are peppered in from the beginning (like the now iconic cast from the pilot, which was his idea). I don’t know where I would be without these people—as a creator, you’re the one who makes the final decisions, but I definitely had a lot of consultants along the way.

And yet as the showrunner, you definitely have a lot at stake in the show on a personal level.

LI: As I made the decision to leave my show, which was a very hard decision, it’s so interesting for me to reflect on what’s happened with the show and the ownership that has been taken. For myself and the people mentioned above, this show was personal—it was art. For me, personally—and I speak only for myself here—this was an extension of me and a labor of love, and five years of my life such that I can’t explain the amount of work that goes into it. There are different people who come in and work with us for a few months a year: we have the luxury of an awesome team who comes in every season—including those who are going back without me, which is a gift to be able to leave behind opportunity and jobs for amazing people—but even those who work on the show don’t understand what goes into it for those of us who are with it from day one. It’s not just one person who should get the credit, but I’ve definitely been the lone soldier who carries it from beginning to end, which is why this is so personal and why the choice to leave was so incredibly painful.

Now, though, I see it as a business: it’s not this personal thing anymore. And it is a business, and it’s been the best lesson I’ve learned: should you do anything that gets any kind of adulation, validation, good ratings, or an audience, it becomes this thing where everybody sort of wants a piece of it, and wants to take ownership of it. And the truth is the ownership lies with the people who loved it, and there are a lot of them, it was not just me. It’s still hard for me to see the show as a business, because it was so personal: I cry all the time. I cried last night; I cried writing that post about Erin.

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Interview: Hell On Wheels Showrunner John Wirth

JohnWirthWhen veteran writer/producer John Wirth took over as showrunner on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, it was a somewhat strangely public process. John Shiban, the showrunner for the show’s first two seasons, backed out unexpectedly after the series was renewed, leading AMC to make the series’ pickup contingent on finding a new showrunner. With series creators Joe and Tony Gayton departing as well, Wirth stepped into a series with established characters, existing storylines, and more or less complete creative freedom to take the show in whatever direction he desired.

That direction has made the show a strange sort of success story for AMC, shuffled off to the prestige-less refuge of Saturday nights where it’s been quietly outperforming expectations (see Kate Aurthur’s report at Buzzfeed for more). It concludes its third season tonight at 9/8c on AMC with the expectation that it has earned a fourth season, and having successfully transitioned from a slightly underperforming prestige AMC drama to a successful translation of their film western audience into original programming on a normally dead night.

At July’s TCA Press Tour before the season premiered, I had a chance to talk to Wirth about his perspective on showrunning, how he came to be involved with Hell on Wheels, his planned use of social media (which I’ll be reflecting on soon elsewhere), and how—despite the strange circumstances—Hell On Wheels marks a meaningful period in his career as a showrunner-for-hire.

This is far from your first time serving as showrunner on a series; in fact, the Internet suggests you were part of a “Showrunner Training Program” at some point? How do you train someone to be a showrunner?

JW: I put together a committee of writer-producer-showrunner types. We did a small book called A Television Writers’ Handbook. And it was the first time in the history of the Writers’ Guild that anybody had codified what it is to work on a TV show and what the various positions are and what’s expected of you when you’re in those positions. And we had a big chapter on showrunners, and how to behave as a showrunner, and so forth.

Out of that, Jeff Melvoin—who I had asked to be a part of that committee—had the idea: is this something we could teach? And I didn’t believe that it was, and he believed that it was. He said “I’m going to try to put together this program, will you work on it with me? “And I said sure, but I don’t want to be in charge—this little book we did took five years, and I thought it would take a couple months.

We put together the Showrunner Training Program, which has been enormously successful. I still don’t believe you can teach someone to be a showrunner, but you can expose them to the things they’re going to experience when they are showrunners. That’s really the goal of that program, to let people know what it is they’re going to be experiencing when they get that job.

What’s that job like?

The job itself is ridiculous. You’re the hardest working man or woman in show business – the hours are incredible, you have to be a writer/producer and manager, you have to manage up down and sideways, you have to be a priest, you have to be a magician, you have to be a wife – it’s nutty.

So why you do you think AMC came to you to fill that job on Hell on Wheels?

JW: I think they got to the Ws in their rolodex and were like “Damnit!” Who’s after this guy? We’d better like him. Continue reading

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Why would Dan Harmon return to Community?

HarmonImageAs news broke of Dan Harmon’s potential return to Community, it felt like an Internet rumor that Deadline would start in order to drum up potential hits. That’s because that’s what it was, of course, another one of the myriad of “scoops” that Nellie Andreeva gets from her sources at Sony TV who use her as a pipeline to the Internet rumor mill. This doesn’t mean the story is untrue, of course, but rather that there’s a good chance it’s an idea being floated as opposed to an actual, factual thing that’s happening. And so I admittedly didn’t give it a second thought, at least until it became clear that it was—at the very least—something that Sony and Harmon were negotiating about following the confirmed departure of season four showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port.

My immediate reaction to this was confusion. Why would Sony want Harmon to return to a show that he publicly admitted to mismanaging? And why would Harmon want to return to the show after making a show of moving on with his career? After asking variations on these questions on Twitter, I got some interesting responses, and I think I’ve got a clearer sense on the circumstances that would lead to both parties reconciling their differences to work together again on a fifth season; I also think we need to disassociate this development from any sort of idealistic notion that either party is in this for the fans’ best interest.

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Cultural Interview: Awkward. Creator/Showrunner Lauren Iungerich [Part One]

When Awkward.which I cover for The A.V. Club, and which returns on Thursday at 10:30/9:30c on MTV—made its debut on MTV last year, creator Lauren Iungerich was transformed from a television writer into a television showrunner. While recent events have led many publications to shine a light on the rise of female showrunners and/or creators within television, Iungerich has unfairly flown under the radar in those conversations. Working outside of the network system with a cable channel still searching for its identity in original scripted programming, Iungerich was given something that some other creators aren’t given: the opportunity, and the challenge, of playing the role of showrunner for her first series.

I had a chance to chat with Iungerich last week, and I’ll be sharing that interview in two parts. The first part, found below, details her experience as a first-time showrunner, her approach to Awkward.’s development, and her plans for its evolution—accordingly, it may be of interest even to those who haven’t watched the MTV series. Meanwhile, part two of the conversation—which is now up—will focus more specifically on the series itself as it heads into its second season, with topics including the show’s central love triangle and its Palos Verdes setting in California.

Given that this was your first time as a “showrunner,” how did it compare to your expectations?

Lauren Iungerich: It was way harder. [Laughs] What’s hard about being a showrunner—to break it down, there are two things that are really tough. First, you can’t just be the artist: you also have to be the producer, so it’s like art and commerce get mixed together so you have to be fiscally responsible; you have to really work with your network to make sure you can really produce the show and yet at the same time maintain the artistic integrity of your vision. And those are two things that sometimes don’t work in concert with each other.

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Cultural Flashback: Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

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Cultural Flashback:

Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

My brother asked me this week why I hadn’t yet commented (like Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune or James Poniewozik at Time) on the emerging story wherein Tim Kring, creator of NBC’s former-hit Heroes, referred to people who watch his show live weekly “dipsh**s” while discussing the show moving away from serialization in a recent appearance.

Now, clearly, this is hideously uncool and condescending coming from someone who runs a show that is only surviving due to these kinds of devoted fans, and who is being forced to dial back serialization as opposed to it happening naturally. But to be honest, my emotional attachment to Heroes is so low right now (five episodes behind and counting, I think) that it didn’t really affect me: I just shook my head, wondering whether the man seriously even understands his own show.

There was another element to my detachment, though, and that is an element of “I told you so.” Last March, only two months into the life of Cultural Learnings (aka when likely very few of you were reading), myself and Matt Elliott (formerly of BE Something, a TV-focused blog, and now writing very intelligent pieces on generational workplace scenarios at Y Working) got into a lengthy discussion about the state of the two big serial shows of the time, Lost and Heroes. Remember, this was at the point before Lost’s tremendous third season really hit its stride (and before the amazing twist of Through the Looking Glass, which led Matt to renew his faith in Lindelof/Cuse), so Matt’s original article discussing what Heroes could do to avoid “becoming like Lost” was not as crazy as it might sound today (in other words, don’t hate on his article, he meant well).

Matt made a tremendous number of fantastic suggestions for Heroes’ future that would have done some good, but in writing my response my point was simple: with Tim Kring at the helm and with an already overbloated cast, I did not foresee a scenario where they would, or even could, implement the things that could save the show. I was not, in fact, a believer.

I don’t repost this to toot my own horn, though, so much as I repost it to remind us of a time when Heroes could have been saved, where the man at the helm could have made decisions that would keep him from having to degrade his own audience in an attempt to make his show seem…I don’t even know what he was trying to do. And, as they again attempt to reboot the series to become more relevant, maybe some reminders of Matt’s suggestions could prove beneficial to Kring or, ideally, whoever they get to replace him.

What you’ll find below the fold is my original article with some inserted commentary (consider it to the Director’s Cut) – enjoy!

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The Search for a Showsaver: Heroes, Bryan Fuller and NBC’s Big Little Problems

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The Search for a Showsaver

November 4th, 2008

In case you didn’t hear (I’ve been out of commission in terms of blogging due to a major presentation, so my Twitter feed has been the best source of information/reaction), NBC over the weekend let go Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb, the two head writers at their highest rated scripted series, Heroes. Note how I make the distinction: no longer a hit, the show has been relegated to simply being the highest rated amongst NBC’s anemic fall lineup.

This is a fact that NBC wants to fix, a purpose I find admirable if a tad bit idealistic. At this point, Heroes’ problems are that awful mix of inevitable (that some viewers would tire of the serialized narrative), creative (an admitted lack of quality and consistency ever since the first season finale), and logistical (budget overruns, an overabundance of cast members, etc.). Taken individually, the problems might be easy to handle: you offer more social networking integration to hook in what hardcore viewers you have, you bring in a new showrunner who is capable of bringing some quality writing the show’s solid foundation, and you cut some cast members and focus more on character than action or setpieces.

But, solving all three at once can’t be done: any creative or logistical changes could alienate the existing fanbase, and there is no guarantee that a showrunner will be able to balance the creative side of the series with the budget cuts that NBC is forcing on the series. Plus, at the same time, Tim Kring is still in charge of the series, and while Loeb and Alexander may be the scapegoats I’d tend to think the problem goes beyond them to the man truly in charge.

So while names like Bryan Fuller are bandied about, it begs the question: can NBC save Heroes?

Keep reading to find out.

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