When Showrunners Exit: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

When Showrunners Exit: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Nashville on ABC

Earlier this week news broke that Nashville’s current showrunner would be replaced by Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick. Now on one hand this is good news for Nashville fans since it seems to indicate that a fifth season is likely; however, handing over the reins of a TV show can seriously alter the tone of a show, for better or worse.  

Nashville isn’t the first show to part ways with its showrunner, it’s not even the first show this TV season, although it is a bit peculiar in that they aren’t hiring from within. To be honest, I’ve never seen an episode of Nashville, but I always find it fascinating to see how the changing of the guard can alter the course of a series.

Two of the more high-profile showrunner exits that spelled disaster occurred on Community and Gilmore Girls. On Community, Dan Harmon was fired at the end of season three and then re-hired after season 4 went awry. The events of which were quickly explained away by a “gas leak”. When all was said and done, Harmon was able to right the ship enough to eek out two more seasons, albeit the last one left Yahoo Screen in the red.

No one was fired on Gilmore Girls, but Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband parted ways after the show’s seventh season when they failed to reach an agreement with The WB regarding the future of their show and their own contracts. Gilmore Girls ultimately aired one more season, which no one would even claim as their favorite. Like Community though, the Palladino’s would be reunited with their brain-child. In 2015, Netflix picked up the show for a four-part revival.

Sometimes TV shows can change showrunners without having such egregious effects, but that doesn’t mean a portion of the audience isn’t unhappy. Go online and you’ll find fans of shows like Awkward, Charmed, Dexter, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The West Wing pointing to the time of the transition as where it all went wrong. Now obviously you can’t please everyone, but from my viewing experience, when a show has a creator with a strong voice, someone like Joss Whedon for example, they’re not only a tough act to follow but their absence is also usually noticeable.

Not all change is bad though. Mike Kelley left Revenge after its second season, which was by all accounts a textbook example of a sophomore slump. Sunil Nayar, one of the show’s Executive Producers took over the helm and while the third and fourth seasons may have never lived up to the glory of the first, they were still an improvement from the overstuffed and often convoluted second season.   

Halt and Catch Fire’s original showrunner also departed after the second season; however, the co-creators of the series are actually stepping up to fill the void. The third season has yet to air, but it stands to reason that this shift in personnel will be  “seamless” as Joel Stillerman, the president of original programming at AMC puts it.  

So what does this all mean for Nashville? Well, TVLine.com’s Kimberly Roots seems to believe that the new hires may be a good fit for the series, “Herskovitz and Zwick are an offbeat — though, in my opinion, inspired — choice for the Connie Britton-led series, which has struggled to nail down its identity since Season 1.

If the show is trying to double-down on the character-driven drama, then they may have found their guys. The two are best known for their work on My So-Called Life and thirtysomething and clearly excel in that particular brand of storytelling. Nashville fans, what do you think of the news? Are you just rooting for another season, regardless of who’s running the show?

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Written by Jamie Paton

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