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Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011

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    Comedy
    Al Jean
    Al Jean
    The Simpsons (Fox)

    Jean got into comedy as a "nerdy math major" at Harvard. Some Lampoon friends who turned down Hollywood writing jobs recommended Jean in their place, first on the feature Airplane 2 and then on The Simpsons, whose first half-hour episode broke all Fox ratings records in 1989 and which has since won 27 Emmys. Simpsons will reach another milestone Feb. 19 when its 500th episode is set to air, and though the show was recently renewed for two more seasons, Jean, 50, says all he can do is live in the present. "Simpsons is the most scrutinized script of any show in town," he says. "I've helped the show stay on the air by constantly acting like it was the first season, never taking success for granted." His other weapon: the management skills he learned from ALF showrunner Bob Bendetson in the 1980s. Jean also thanks two "crummy" showrunners -- he won't name them -- for showing him what not to do. "You can't sit there and agonize," he says. "A bad decision is better than no decision."

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