Calling all TV addicts, if you like DVD featurettes, episode commentaries, show panels, and podcasts like the Nerdist Writers Panel you need to watch the Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show documentary. It’s available now on Netflix.
Not only does the film assemble an impressive roster of TV creators like Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Steven S. DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Hart Hanson, Mike Kelley, Ali LeRoi, Damon Lindelof, Ronald Moore, and more, but it employs the talking head style of delivery so you get to hear first hand what it’s like to take a show from initial conception to completion (or cancellation).
Using the lifespan of a TV series to create a linear narrative to follow, Showrunners also delves into the day-to-day responsibilities like working in the writers’ room, handling network notes, and keeping everything on-time and within budget. Some of the other topics touched on include interacting with fans at conventions and on the Internet and the difference between working on a show that airs on broadcast versus cable.
Overall, as a TV nerd, I found Showrunners to be quite enjoyable. I first got a glimpse of the documentary back at New York Comic Con in 2013, so as you can imagine I was pretty pumped to finally be able to see it in its entirety. The sheer number of people they interviewed to put this film together is enough to warrant its existence, but there’s plenty of substance to go along with the name recognition.
My only nitpick with the film and it’s not really the fault of anyone, more of a case of timing, is that Showrunners feels like it exists in a very specific time and place in the TV landscape, and that time is not the present. Although IMDB says Showrunners was made in 2014, the film has been in the works for much longer than that. It’s Kickstarter campaign launched in November of 2012.
In the meantime however, Amazon and Netflix got into the original content game. Today, it’s hard not to talk about TV without including these new avenues for distribution, unfortunately they aren’t included in this doc. I really would have liked to have gotten some insight into what it’s like to work with a non-broadcast / cable entity and to create something meant for binge watching.
While Showrunners won’t shed light on the likes of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, there’s still plenty of quality TV to reminisce about like Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spartacus, and Battlestar Galactica. And if the documentary leaves you wanting more, well don’t worry, there’s a companion Showrunners book, apparently with even more showrunners!
Bottom line, Showrunners is to TV fans as ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is to sports fan. So do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix queue. I know you’re always looking for something new to watch.