Greg Berlanti Remembers John Litvack: ‘He Pushed You to Push Yourself’

Before Greg Berlanti was an A-list showrunner and busy film director, he was a baby writer on the WB Network’s teen soap “Dawson’s Creek.”

While working on that show, Berlanti was taken under wing by the network’s head of current programming, John Litvack, a colorful industry vet who died March 21 at 69. Here Berlanti, the exec producer of CW’s “The Flash” and “Arrow,” among other shows, pays tribute to his mentor and friend.

“He was one of a handful of people who told me I had what it took to be a showrunner, and then he taught me how to do it. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would not have the career I have today had I not been able to work with him.

“John could be quite grumpy but he had a huge heart. And he had an incredible facility for story. He was really obsessed with great episodes of TV; he had an encyclopedic knowledge of them. He always said it came down to whether or not you were trying to tell a great story. That’s where he would push you. Many times he would send me back to the drawing board on ‘Dawson’s Creek’ or ‘Everwood.’ He’d say, ‘There’s no story here. What is going to be the thing about this episode that people will be talking about five to 10 years from now?’ No episode was unimportant to him. He pushed you to push yourself. He wasn’t afraid to do that, and part of it is because he had so much production experience. He wasn’t afraid to compare and contrast your work with someone else he’d worked with. He’d tell you, ‘This is what you don’t have in common with Grant Tinker,’ and then tell some great story.

“The episode I most fondly remember him being intimately involved with on ‘Everwood’ was one where we dealt with a character having a non-medically induced abortion. John was dealing with other executives around him and (WB Network) stations who weren’t sure they were going to air it. He didn’t want us to do an issue just to get ratings or headlines but because it was going to be a well-executed story. He was busy navigating the politics of that episode while pushing us to make sure we didn’t just tell the story from one point of view.

“I spent more time sitting on the porch, as it were, with John, listening to him tell stories, than any executive I’ve ever worked with. I’ll always be grateful for what he passed down to me, and for what he inspired in me.”

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