Twenty-one top TV showrunners share their industry experiences in “Created By.” Steven Prigge’s streamlined, in-their-own-words approach makes for a simple and informative primer on how to succeed as a TV writer. But anyone hoping for some revealing inside dish on the skeins under discussion should look elsewhere.
The book’s most admirable trait is the breadth and diversity of the showrunners interviewed, who include Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”), Brenda Hampton (“7th Heaven”), Tracy Gamble (“8 Simple Rules”) and Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”). They span the key scripted TV realms of comedy, drama, cable and broadcast.
Following brief bios of each showrunner, the book is broken down into chapters such as “Breaking In” and “So You Want to Write for My Show?” Each chapter then has sections that group together a selection of soundbites from the interviewees on a given topic, such as getting an agent or dealing with a network.
Information provided seems sensible, if hardly earth-shattering. There’s a general consensus that who you know is at least as important as how well you write when it comes to landing a TV gig. There’s also much talk about long hours spent in the writers room and the importance of being able to get along with one’s fellow scribes.
Prigge keeps the book’s focus on career advice, and his subjects clearly seem to love what they do. With the exception of Ball’s already well-documented miserable experiences in network TV (which ultimately led to his writing the script for “American Beauty” just for creative release), “Created By” is a uniformly positive look at the industry. The interviewees frequently praise the medium’s exaltation of writers and the creative freedom and satisfaction that often engenders.
As might be expected in the fast-paced world of network TV, a few of the interviews already feel out of date. For example, J.J. Abrams talks about creating “Felicity” and “Alias” but not his most recent success, “Lost.” And fans of the recently canceled “Joan of Arcadia” likely will have a bittersweet reaction to creator Barbara Hall’s discussion of the show’s successful first season.