Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
Despite 20 years in the industry, six Emmys for producing ER and The West Wing, forays into features and a tenure as WGA president, there are moments that surprise the seasoned writer-producer, now overseeing Showtime's politically incorrect Shameless. "We were in a read-through last week and at the end of it, Bill [Macy] pulled out a ukulele and had written a Christmas song for us to use to promote the show," says Wells, laughing. Though Shameless' first season attracted only a fraction of the audience that broadcast networks consider a success -- roughly 1 million viewers -- Wells, 55, believes having more options on television is creatively exhilarating. "There are shows on the air with audiences that are 10 percent the size of what was once considered a failure," explains Wells. "If you look at what we think of as 'successful' now, like Mad Men, there would have been no place for that show 20 years ago." As Shameless readies its return this winter, Wells has a slew of projects in development and remains a producer of TNT's underdog drama Southland. His focus, however, is on growing the fledgling Showtime drama. "You use up a lot of your best ideas in season one," he says. "So the concern now is making the best possible use of this amazing cast."