It's just after 10:30 a.m., and the writer-producers are enjoying a rare private moment away from the rest of the staff inside the smaller of their offices on the Fox lot. "We often wish we could just come in here and lock the doors," says Thomas, left. "But as showrunners, we're at the head of this table, all eyeballs on us, so we have to pretend to have all the answers. Then we walk down the hall, begin sobbing and open the scotch. I don't know how sole showrunners do it."
Sutter is one of FX's most iconic and outspoken creative. He made headlines last summer with all that trash-talk about getting snubbed at the Emmys. He says the rants came from a satirical place, but admits it's tough not to get sucked into the hype. "I see a show like Mad Men get gobs of Emmys, as well it should," he says. "But what people don't realize is that it's almost more difficult to make my show look this shitty."
It's easy to envy Lawrence. The William & Mary graduate was co-running a hit series in New York -- ABC's Spin City -- at 26, under the tutelage of one of the genre's masters, Gary David Goldberg. Six years later, Lawrence had another hit in NBC's goofy single-camera comedy Scrubs, a transition the Connecticut native says was tough because "I didn't delegate very well. But by the end I'd realized, just hire talented people and let them do their jobs -- what a concept." A decade later, Lawrence has settled into his most recent stint as the mayor of Cougar Town (which may or may not be getting a new name, depending on the mood of Lawrence's Twitter feed).
Tamaro is open about the strain of overseeing a hit series. "TNT has been great so far, but I've realized there's no way to be a master of the universe," she says. "I've accepted that this is the gig, and I think all the showrunners in Hollywood should start a support group." Her main priorities for season three? "Having a life again" and making more time for her husband and two teenage daughters. "I'm also going to demand more and not be as concerned with people liking me," she says, laughing.
"My one rule is: don't panic," says Schur of the strains of running a network series. "I saw people panic at SNL, and it looked like a bad idea." The Harvard grad points to his Office mentor, Greg Daniels, as his showrunner model. "He never raises his voice -- ever," he says, checking his e-mail. He laughs. "My wife and I share an Amazon.com account," says Schur, whose son is 3 and daughter is 15 months. "And last night, during a very high-stress work moment, I got this e-mail that said, 'Your order of six pairs of Green Lantern underwear has been shipped.'"