Showrunners: Control or cajole?

Teaming up brings boons for those who can bear it

Today’s showrunners have many decisions to make, one of the most important being whether to tackle a show solo or bring a like-minded partner onboard to share the job.

Years after first working with Robert Carlock on “Saturday Night Live,” Tina Fey invited him to join her as co-showrunner on “30 Rock” in 2006. Since then, the pair has tackled even the not-so-glamorous aspects of showrunning together.

“There are many considerations in running a show,” stated Carlock, “from making sure production is running smoothly to meeting with the network.” Like most healthy relationships, Carlock thinks open dialogue is key. “There’s constant communication between us and the department heads. If there’s ever an issue, the two of us confer and make a decision.”

Fey considers herself lucky to have Carlock by her side when dealing with such instances.

“Because I’m on set, a fair amount of the less exciting aspects of showrunning falls on Robert,” she admits. “I also think the network calls him first because he’s more consistently even-tempered than I am.

“I’m even-tempered too, but I like to fool people into thinking I’m not.”

Having Carlock there to field some of those calls allows Fey to concentrate less on the show’s business and more on its comedy.

But teaming up to run a show has its downside, too. Showrunners are the proverbial parents and the show is their baby. Sometimes mom and dad don’t agree on what’s best for junior.

“No two people always see eye to eye on everything,” states “Lost” exec producer Damon Lindelof, “but just as it is with anything else, you talk through it as a team and inevitably push through.”

“Differing opinions arise,” Lindelof’s showrunning partner Carlton Cuse agrees, “but in the end you’re looking out for the show. The person you’re working with shares the same goals, is aiming for the same end result.”

While some find teaming up enticing, others, such as Vince Gilligan of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and Matt Nix of both USA’s “Burn Notice” and Fox’s “The Good Guys,” still work solo.

Gilligan admits running a show alone means more control. “I’m definitely a control freak,” he says with a laugh. “It’s nothing I’m particularly proud of, and it doesn’t mean I don’t trust the folks around me. But there’s something intrinsic to the kind of personality who would want their own television show in the first place.”

Yet neither rules out teaming up with someone, someday.

Nix says if he found the right match, “I would look at it as if I were bringing on a new writing partner.”

Says Gilligan: “I feel like I already work with partners, so I definitely wouldn’t be averse to a partnership in the future.”

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