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THR's Top 50 Showrunners 2012

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TV's most influential writer-producers come clean about the credits they'd like scrubbed from their résumés, their most absurd notes from execs, their television mentors and the ways they cure writer's block.

Murphy Brown
's Diane English. M*A*S*H's Larry Gelbart. The Dick Van Dyke Show's Carl Reiner. Cheers' Glen and Les Charles. All in the Family's Normal Lear. Had THR's annual celebration of television's most powerful creative minds been around during their heyday, these classic giants of the business no doubt would have topped the list. Like the 50 groups featured on the following 10 pages, their mentors and icons challenged the norms and mores of their time while perpetuating the unwavering belief that TV is more than an American pasttime -- it's the lens through which we interpret our culture and ourselves.

Writing and producing comedies and dramas also happens to be one of the nuttiest professions in showbiz, as evidenced by the very honest and often hilarious responses THR's editors and reporters gathered from the men and women who most impacted the medium this year.

From their obsessive rituals (Peppermint Patties! Oatmeal! Bruce Springsteen!) to the parts of their jobs they hate most (picking where to eat lunch, answering e-mail) to the industry figures they most idolize (see the list above, and then some), these showrunners share and embody the quirky candor and humility necessary to churn out the most entertaining, groundbreaking and so-good-we-actually-watch-it-live television.

METHODOLOGY: Selections for The Hollywood Reporter's fifth annual list of the top showrunners are based on the following criteria: 

1. Direct responsibility for the day-to-day creative output of a scripted TV show that has aired for at least one full season (unless he or she also had another show on the air). 
2. How prolific the showrunner is: Those with more shows on the air were more likely to be included. 
3. Nielsen ratings, especially relative to other shows on the same network. 
4. Emmy attention and critical praise. 
 Professionalism and reputation among studio and network executives.

Edited by Stacey Wilson; Profiles written by Tim Appelo, Lesley Goldberg, Marisa Guthrie, Philiana Ng, Michael O'Connell and Lacey Rose

  1. Cynthia Cidre

    Dallas (TNT)read more

  2. Carol Mendelsohn (original) and Pam Veasey (NY)

    Team CSI (CBS)read more

  3. Julian Fellowes

    Downton Abbey (PBS)read more

  4. Alex Gansa

    Homeland (Showtime)read more

  5. Vince Gilligan

    Breaking Bad (AMC)read more

  6. Oliver Goldstick and Marlene King

    Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family)read more

  7. Hart Hanson

    Bones (Fox)read more

  8. Bruno Heller

    The Mentalist (CBS)read more

  9. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis

    Once Upon a Time (ABC)read more

  10. Jason Katims

    Parenthood (NBC)read more

  11. Mike Kelley

    Revenge (ABC)read more

  12. Michelle King and Robert King

    The Good Wife (CBS)read more

  13. Aaron Korsh

    Suits (USA)read more

  14. Peter Lenkov

    Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)read more

  15. Glen Mazzara

    The Walking Dead (AMC)read more

  16. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk

    Glee (Fox) and American Horror Story (FX)read more

  17. Shane Brennan (LA) and Gary Glasberg (original)

    Team NCIS (CBS)read more

  18. Matt Nix

    Burn Notice (USA)read more

  19. Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman

    Person of Interest (CBS)read more

  20. Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers

    Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal (ABC)read more

  21. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage

    Gossip Girl and Hart of Dixie (CW)read more

  22. Greer Shephard

    Longmire (A&E)read more

  23. Aaron Sorkin

    The Newsroom (HBO)read more

  24. Kurt Sutter

    Sons of Anarchy (FX)read more

  25. Janet Tamaro

    Rizzoli & Isles (TNT)read more

  26. Matthew Weiner

    Mad Men (AMC)read more

  27. D.B. Weiss and David Benioff

    Game of Thrones (HBO)read more

  28. John Wells

    Shameless (Showtime)read more

  29. Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec

    The Vampire Diaries (CW)read more

  30. Terence Winter

    Boardwalk Empire (HBO)read more

  31. Graham Yost

    Justified (FX)read more

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