×

Drama producers cite surprising influences

Road to the Emmys: Drama

If finding success on television is like capturing lightning in a bottle, then creating a show that becomes a cultural touchstone is even more elusive.

While all six of this year’s Emmy drama nominees have already set their own benchmarks of quality, the producers behind each series say they also draw inspiration from the shows that have come before them.

“Dexter” executive producer Scott Buck says he was influenced as a writer by shows that immediately declared themselves as different.

“It might feel odd to say that my work on ‘Dexter’ has been influenced by shows like ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ or ‘Twin Peaks,’ ” Buck says, “but those were shows that really stopped me dead in my tracks and made me pay attention, because I knew I was watching something that hadn’t been done before.”

“Boardwalk Empire” co-executive producer Gene Kelly says that the classic storytelling of shows like “The Honeymooners,” “Our Gang,” “The Little Rascals” and even “The Three Stooges” inform his work.

“It was the humanity in those shows and the way they touched people universally,” Kelly says. “If somebody’s trying to think of a way to tell a story, you always sort of wonder how they did it on ‘The Little Rascals.’ ”

“Friday Nights Lights” exec producer Jason Katims admits that he doesn’t spend a lot of his free time watching TV, but credits “The Sopranos” for raising the bar in general over the last decade. He says his first job in TV continues to influence him day to day.

” ‘My So-Called Life,’ which Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz produced … was kind of my graduate school,” Katims says. “I feel like what I do is a direct descendent of their work.”

The Good Wife” executive producers Robert and Michelle King, who say they enjoy “Breaking Bad,” cite “The West Wing” as a TV milestone.

“Not trying to explain everything to the audience is the greatest legacy from that show,” Robert King says. “(And) for the fluidity of language and family-like look at a workplace.”

Adds Michelle King, “We bow at the altar of ‘The Sopranos.’ ”

“Game of Thrones” executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff also credit many of HBO’s iconic series for providing inspiration.

“It’s not just blowing smoke — the great HBO dramas were hugely inspiring examples of uncompromising, big-canvas storytelling that changed the way we (and everyone) thought about television. ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Deadwood’ — maybe ‘The Wire’ most of all,” says Weiss.

Benioff adds, “Not to be crude, but there are some TV shows you let play while you go to the bathroom. And there are some you pause because you don’t want to miss a second. That’s what we wanted to make — a pause-worthy show.”

“Mad Men” executive producer Matthew Weiner points to many shows that motivate his work, but he says he’s always looking for a mixture of humor and weight.

“I was forbidden to watch TV most of my childhood and caught up as an adult,” Weiner says. “Everything I see and saw has become part of the fabric of ‘Mad Men.’ Of course, ‘The Sopranos’ taught everyone in television that it was possible to have a muscular plot and still be emotionally complex.

“Otherwise, it was a somewhat pretentious and strange interest in French cinema as a young boy that made me want to dress up actresses and see them reject men.”

ROAD TO THE EMMYS: DRAMA
Think outside the bucks | Drama producers cite surprising influences
The nominees

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

  • Kaley CuocoHilarity for Charity Sixth Annual

    Kaley Cuoco HBO Max Series 'The Flight Attendant' Sets Creative Team

    The creative team set to bring Kaley Cuoco’s dark comedy series “The Flight Attendant” to HBO Max has taken shape. The series, which tells the terrifying story of a flight attendant (Cuoco) who wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man and no idea what happened, has tapped Susanna [...]

  • Mayim Bialik

    Mayim Bialik Signs Warner Bros. TV Production, Talent Holding Deal

    “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik is expanding her relationship with the production studio behind the long-running CBS comedy. Bialik and her newly launched Sad Clown Productions banner have signed an exclusive multi-year production deal with the studio, coupled with a talent holding provision for her acting services. Bialik is bringing on former Chuck [...]

  • Carmen Ejogo Isiah Whitlock Jr

    Bryan Cranston Showtime Series 'Your Honor' Casts Carmen Ejogo, Isiah Whitlock Jr.

    The upcoming Showtime drama series “Your Honor” has added Carmen Ejogo and Isiah Whitlock Jr. to its cast as series regulars. The pair join previously announced series lead Bryan Cranston. Cranston stars as a respected New Orleans judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a high-stakes game of lies, deceit and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content