Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
Heller is that rare showrunner who's experienced the best of both worlds -- prestige and popularity -- first as showrunner for HBO's acclaimed period epic Rome and now for CBS' hit procedural The Mentalist. The Brit also is a card-carrying member of the intellectual elite: His sister is novelist Zoe Heller (Notes on a Scandal), his father was screenwriter Lukas Heller and his paternal grandfather was the legal philosopher Hermann Heller. Despite his heady pedigree, Heller is rather down-to-earth about his current artistic endeavors. "There's only so much you can say about a show like The Mentalist, which is designed to entertain people," says Heller, 51. "I did a cable series that urban sophisticates liked, and I very much didn't want to do that again. I wanted grandmum and grandson to be able to watch it sitting on the same couch, which is increasingly rare on TV." Heller's self-challenge has paid off: Now in its fourth season, Mentalist is seen by more than 13 million viewers a week.