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Showrunners – Movie Review

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Showrunners: the art of running a TV Show – Review by Frank L.

Written and Directed by Des Doyle

Increasingly “shows” are what people watch. The excitement leading up to the final episode of Breaking Bad was palpable with wall to wall coverage on TV, Radio and print media. These series have become cultural events and have moved beyond movies in terms of audience viewing figures and revenue generation. While once there was loyalty to a channel increasingly the loyalty is to a particular show. How do they come to be made? How do they continue to be made? Who controls the various creative, administrative and financial parts of any show? The “Showrunner” is the answer.

What is a “Showrunner”? That is the question that Des Doyle tries to answer. He does so by an assortment of interviews with a variety of Showrunners who seek to explain what they do and how they do it. Some of these people are now household names, such as Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams. They have become brands, and their name in the opening credits will add credibility and create interest. Others are virtual unknowns with their work being behind the scenes.

As there are so many different components needed to make a film, the problems and intricacies are multiplied several times over when it has to be produced on a serial basis. The show is telling a story. The Showrunner is the story teller but he is also in charge of a variety of other technical, financial and administrative matters. There is a litany of complexities, the multifarious problems of having many actors, sets and locations which means the issues which arise for a Showrunner are legion. His world is a combination of managerial expertise and creative insight. It requires huge energy.

Doyle takes on this vast topic by conducting a series of interviews with the Showrunners of various successful shows and some of their underlings. To a certain extent the interviews are enlightening but often to an outsider they are speaking in a jargon which is not familiar so the point they wish to articulate does not necessarily come across. What is conveyed is the intensity of the process and the commitment of the people involved. It is also bewildering the number of people who appear to be necessary and the innumerable number of meetings which are involved with check lists stretching over entire walls. Doyle has assembled a mountain of material onto which he has to impose order.

He does succeed in explaining that the process is complex but that could have been guessed already by anyone who thought about the problems. In giving an insight into the complexities he undoubtedly has created a documentary which will be of substantial interest to anyone involved in network or cable television but the desire of the ordinary viewer to have this amount of information about the processes that are involved in their favourite show is the question which comes to mind.

Given the magnitude of the number of people who watch the shows, it probably requires a small minority to ensure an audience for Doyle’s documentary. People who are not interested in shows or how they come to be made will be unlikely to find much of interest in this energetic documentary. For the aficionados this documentary offers an insight into the day to day battles of the series makers, and shines a light behind the curtain.

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