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The showrunners highlighted on these pages are all too sharp to crib low-hanging Dickens — yet, for the writer-producers fueling entertainment’s most prolific and popular medium, it really is the best and not-so-best of times.
Upward of 560 scripted series are expected to air in the U.S. by year’s end, as the industry hires more new voices than ever. There are comedy breakouts (see Abbott Elementary and The Bear) and behemoth dramas (House of the Dragon and Squid Game). But studio consolidation, libraries getting yanked from streamers without warning — looking at you, HBO Max — and shorter episode orders putting a financial squeeze on scribes farther down the food chain have added an asterisk to the idea of “Peak TV.”
Both sides of this coin are evident in THR’s annual report on the 50 most powerful, prolific and influential talents in TV, a list that becomes a bigger challenge to whittle down each year. Those who made the cut reveal the series they can’t stop thinking about, the peers they admire most (Succession’s Jesse Armstrong remains class favorite) and, for those who’ve ditched Zoom, their thoughts on the return to the in-person writers room. They also speak their minds over mounting concerns for where this seemingly irrepressible industry is heading.
“Fewer original works get through the development pipeline,” says Robert King, of Evil and The Good Fight,”and showrunners are being turned into employees trying to please their non-writing bosses.” Star Trek producer Jenny Lumet paints a similarly vivid picture: “We’re mid-flight, we don’t know where we’re going. It’s all turbulence, all the time. And though it may seem like more folks can get a seat, I’m not quite sure that’s true.”
This is TV in 2022, warts and all.
— Written and reported by Mikey O’Connell and Lesley Goldberg
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