Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
How did Weiner grow up to create TV's most literate show, one of only three in history to win four consecutive Emmys for best drama? Maybe because he got rotten grades. "I was a horrible student, literally 100th out of 120 people in my high school class," he says. "So TV was the first thing taken away." The L.A. native instead watched classic movies and pored over books in his free time, which led to higher test scores, entry into Wesleyan University, then USC Film School and writing jobs on Biography, Becker and The Sopranos, where he won two Emmys. "Even on Becker, the job that forced me to write Mad Men," says Weiner, "I still realized I was in major league baseball: Only 300 people in the country had this job. Part of the origin of Mad Men was my saying, 'I'm 35, I have all this stuff, I've achieved part of my dream, anybody's dream, and I'm still completely unsatisfied. And that was sort of the story of Don Draper." Though as charmed as Weiner's career has become with Mad Men, which returns in March, his humble years are always within a memory's reach. "My worst job was writing an interactive CD ROM in Orange County about Richard Nixon," he says. "The cubicle, the birthday cakes, the office gossip, the 45-minute commute … it was misery."