Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
After graduating from UCLA as a political science major ("partially because it had a good theater program," he says), the L.A. native was close to becoming a lawyer before his father offered him a challenge. "I'll support you in becoming a lawyer, but only if you can find an attorney who actually likes what he's doing," recalls Nix, 40. (He tried and failed miserably at the task.) So going Hollywood wasn't a surprise to his supportive family. "I was lucky because my great-grandfather was a writer in the 1930s, " he says. "Screenwriting got them through the Depression." There was nothing glamorous about his first writing job, scripting an independent movie produced by an Irish production company. Fifteen years later, USA owes a great deal to Nix -- who had no showrunning experience before creating Burn Notice -- for kick-starting a slate that was last summer's most formidable lineup. Burn Notice continues to deliver, netting nearly 5 million viewers each week and helping USA to set a record in the third quarter as the only cable network to ever average more than 3.5 million viewers. The series also has such a loyal audience that the network aired a prequel telepic directed by its star Jeffrey Donovan and launched a digital interactive comic book that hit 100,000 page views the first day it was released. Says Nix, "The challenge in any show is always to change and stay exciting at the same time."