Hollywood's 50 Most Powerful Showrunners 2016

6:30 AM 10/12/2016

by Mikey O'Connell

Yes, it's THR's annual rundown of those reigning and rising (alongside the swelling number of series), as stalwarts and upstarts alike — including the newbies behind 'Stranger Things,' 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' and 'Underground' — spill all.

Duffer Brothers - H - 2016
Austin Hargrave

TV's scripted surge, which puts the number of original U.S. series well over 400 by 2016's end, finally has created another, quieter phenomenon: L.A. may have more showrunners than taco trucks.

A role once so rarefied and coveted that you'd have been hard-pressed to name 50 people who held it now has proliferated in the era of "Peak TV" to the point where it seems almost disrespectful to highlight such a small number as the 69 featured in this piece. But to stand out as a showrunner, one can't simply write and produce. Those at the top of the game have upward of six series on the air (calm down, Greg Berlanti!), pull exceptional ratings (Game of Thrones' 25 million-strong audience), keep viewers and awards voters talking (The Americans finally got its Emmy nominations) or have a vision so specific (Darren Star's hip, un-TV Land Younger) that a network or streamer is willing to build a brand around their vision.

THR's annual canvassing of TV's biggest players reveals them unanimously bemoaning a lack of resources on every level: "Transparent stole my sound mixer last year midseason," says You're the Worst creator Stephen Falk. "Yeah, Jill Soloway, I'll call you out." Adds Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-creator Tina Fey, "Every living actor has their own show." And don't even get them started on the fight for studio space in Vancouver. The 2016 Power Showrunners class, with 13 new entries, offers an inside look at the perks and pitfalls of the evolving role.

Entries by Lesley Goldberg, Michael O'Connell, Bryn Elise Sandberg and Kate Stanhope

  • Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari

    Parks and Recreation collaborators, Ansari, 33, and Yang, 34, reteamed for the Netflix comedy, which landed critical praise, a writing Emmy and instant cultural relevance.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air 
    Yang: "It's not hard! Being an emergency room nurse, working in a meatpacking plant or taking care of five kids is hard."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Yang: "Hugh Jackman, but he has to use his actual Australian accent. I don't think he's done a comedy in a long time, but he should. He would crush it."

  • Kenya Barris and Jonathan Groff

    With a timely cultural take — see the lauded Black Lives Matter episode — ABC has an atypically relevant broadcast sitcom in Black-ish. In-demand Barris, per an overall deal at ABC Studios, also is developing half-hours for Felicity Huffman and Toni Collette.

    Most confusing network note ever
    Barris: "Could you make this less funny?"

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Groff: "Maya Rudolph, because she's brilliant and we have referenced Bow [Tracee Ellis Ross] having a sister but haven't met her yet."

    Job duty I’d pass off
    Barris: "Budgets"

  • Greg Berlanti

    The prolific producer, based at Warner Bros. TV, will have six shows on the air come midseason. Berlanti, 44, still looks to expand his reach to other networks, with multiple projects in the works — a collaboration with Salim and Mara Brock Akil among them.

    Favorite place to write "Home, in the kitchen, never at the desk I bought."

    Job duty I'd pass off "The part where I have to tell someone something (a cut, a script, etc.) isn’t good enough."

  • Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna

    The little musical comedy engine that could from Brosh McKenna, 49, and Bloom, 29, is a favorite of CW topper Marc Pedowitz — who no doubt is banking on Bloom's Golden Globe translating to an Emmy down the line.

    Most confusing network note
    Brosh McKenna: "Someone asked us to have [Rachel] smoke. I had a very strong negative reaction to that."
    Bloom: "Every show that wants to be dark and interesting has someone f—ing smoking. … Carrie Bradshaw with a cigarette, writing about her pussy."

  • Tina Fey and Robert Carlock

    One of TV's favorite writing teams, Carlock, 44, and Fey, 46, followed up 30 Rock with a series that builds more conversation, acclaim and attention with each new season. Kimmy boasted four key 2016 Emmy nominations.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Fey: "Dom DeLuise because I wish he were alive and my friend."

    Job duty I'd pass off
    Carlock: "Neck and shoulder pain can be considered part of my job. I'd delegate that."

    Most confusing network note
    Fey: "Well, once Robert and I got on a conference notes call for several minutes before we realized it was for the show Heroes. We took the notes, though, because we're very obedient."

    Next series on my watch list
    Carlock: "Too many by far. Let's go with Catastrophe."

  • Ilene Chaiken, Danny Strong and Lee Daniels

    Down from its meteoric start, Empire remains broadcast's highest-rated show and the saving grace at fourth-place Fox. With Chaiken, 59, running day-to-day, Daniels, 56, is focusing on Fox's next musical play: Star.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Chaiken: "Salma Hayek. She defies all the rules that need defying."
    Strong: "Daniel Day-Lewis. He feels hip-hop legendary to me."

    Most confusing network note
    Daniels: "Fox not understanding why Rhonda would put a bib on before giving Andre a blow job."

  • Carlton Cuse

    Cuse, 57, has three dramas on the air and soon adds Amazon's John Krasinski-led Jack Ryan show. He'll serve as day-to-day showrunner on the latter.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Faye Dunaway because she is luminous, amazing and starred in many of the movies that made me want to become a filmmaker."

    Favorite place to write "On airplanes. I don't buy the WiFi. It's dark and I just write." 

  • Ross and Matt Duffer

    Rarely do shows break through the way Stranger Things has. Netflix's "let's see what happens" approach really worked with the Duffer brothers' debut series — minting stars out of the young cast, earning an expanded second season and making the writing duo, 32-year-old twins, two of Hollywood's coveted.

    Person I couldn't do my job without 
    Matt: "[Executive producer] Shawn Levy protects us from the bullshit." Ross: "He's good at putting out fires.

  • Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner

    Their landmark comedy signs off in 2017, but the trio endures among TV's most in-demand. Don't expect to wait too long before hearing about HBO's next plans with prolific Dunham, 30, and Konner, 45.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air
    Konner: "Making sure you didn't copy a storyline from Friends. Those folks did everything."

    Person I couldn't do my job without
    Konner: "You're going to expect me to say my partner, Lena, but I'm going to shock you and say Tracy Anderson. Exercise makes my brain work overtime and keeps me delightful. But actually it’s Lena and Judd."

  • Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath

    Their flagship now settled at 10 p.m. on Thursdays — a time slot NBC has struggled with — Eisendrath, 57, and Bokenkamp, 43, will aim for more Blacklist-style success with the midseason spinoff Redemption.

    Favorite place to write
    Eisendrath: "Anywhere that's loud. I can't write in silence."
    Bokenkamp: "A plane. The phone never rings."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Bokenkamp: "Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, John Waters and June Squibb. They all have amazing hair."

    Job duty I'd pass off
    Eisendrath: "Breaking the stories. I know, it’s only the most important part of my job, but I find it impossibly hard, anxiety-provoking and I suck at it."

  • Sam Esmail

    The 39-year-old's cynical hacker drama ushered in a new USA in 2015 with a massive departure from its blue-sky past. One year later, Mr. Robot scored star Rami Malek an Emmy and supporting player Christian Slater a Golden Globe.

    Next series on my watch list "Crisis in Six Scenes"

     Favorite place to write  "A hotel room."

  • Stephen Falk

    Falk, 44, who in December scored his first overall deal at FX Productions, now has multiple projects in the works for his cable net.

    Favorite place to write "A hotel room in Las Vegas. The rooms are nice and relatively cheap, and the town is terrible. It compels one to stay in and work."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Emma Stone because she is very funny and looks like a walking Pixar character."

  • Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg

    Patience paid off in 2016 when their critical favorite broke through at the Emmys with its fourth season. For Fields, 52, and Weisberg 50, it finally was an honor just to be nominated.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air
    Fields: "Keeping up with what else is on television."

    Person I couldn't do my job without
    Weisberg: "We couldn't do it without the love and support of our wives and kids. No, wait, this is the Emmy speech we didn't give."

  • Alex Gansa

    Showtime is so invested in the 55-year-old’s espionage thriller — still a major Emmys contender and ratings draw five seasons in — that the net ordered three new seasons and paid to move production to New York.

    Person I couldn’t do my job without “My assistant, Ashley Brim, who is the greatest assistant ever and totally isn’t answering these questions for me.”

    Job duty I'd pass off "The 'crippling sense of doom' part of showrunning onto those people who don’t park their cars inside the lines of parking spaces."

  • Scott Gimple and Dave Erickson

    Gimple, 44, oversees the flagship, still No. 1 among adults 18-to-49. Erickson, 44, manages the spinoff, which closed out a strong second season as cable's No. 1 summer show.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Erickson: "Sam Shepard because he has a still-waters-run-deep calm. Mr. Shepard would be a perfect complement to the apocalypse."

  • Adam F. Goldberg

    With his semiautobiographical show successfully anchoring ABC's Wednesday comedy block, Goldberg, 40, adds a second series with the live-action/CGI hybrid Imaginary Mary starring Jenna Elfman.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Bette Midler because she'd be the perfect overbearing mother-in-law to battle with Beverly [Wendi McLendon-Covey]."

    Next series on my watch list "Ash vs. Evil Dead. I can’t believe there’s an entire series about Ash Williams and I haven’t seen it. Adam from middle school hates 2016 Adam."

  • Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

    For the second straight year, the Breaking Bad spinoff from Gould, 56, and Gilligan, 49, nabbed a series Emmy nom and acting mentions for Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks. Post-Mad Men, Saul is AMC's prestige drama.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role
    Gould: "Alan Arkin has been a hero of mine ever since The In-Laws. He’s one of those special performers who can be human, grounded, heartbreaking and — at the same time — just damn funny."

    Next series on my watch list
    Gould: "Bob Odenkirk just raves about Catastrophe."

  • Misha Green and Joe Pokaski

    Green, 32, and 42-year-old Pokaski's historical drama gives the growing net prestige and ranks as the most watched scripted show in its three years of originals.

    Most confusing network note
    Green: "'Make sure you continue to express the 'black experience' in America.' That one needed a lot of clarification."
    Pokaski: "Technically this was in a development meeting, but I actually heard the words, 'I haven’t read your script, but I know how to fix it.'"

    Favorite place to write
    Green: "Anywhere the day before I have a deadline."

    Person I couldn't do my job without
    Pokaski:  "Misha. This is a tough gig for one person. I’m glad I have someone smart and tireless that can rise to the occasion with me."

  • Noah Hawley

    FX has gone all in on Hawley, 49, who writes and directs the buzzy X-Men series Legion (2017) and is actively developing other projects on top of Fargo.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "Honestly? Finding a crew."

    Most confusing network note "I was told a scene need more 'emotionality,' which was really confusing because that's not a word."

    Next series on my watch list "The Young Pope"

  • Mitch Hurwitz

    The king of alt-comedy, Hurwitz, 53, also might be Netflix's busiest producer. His next iteration of the beloved Arrested Development is rumored to shoot in early 2017.

    Favorite place to write "In the margins of a script that's 90 percent of the way there already."

    Most confusing network note "It wasn't exactly confusing, but the most thrillingly devastating network correction I ever received was this helpful reductivism: 'Mitch, if you come up with an idea —  and you think it’s good — maybe it’s a twist on a plot or a joke that you feel hasn’t been done or something … just don't do it."

  • Mike Judge and Alec Berg

    Created by Judge, 53, the tech-spoofing series racked up eight Emmy mentions this year. Sandwiched between Game of Thrones and Veep, Silicon Valley also is at the center of HBO's most valuable programming block.

    Next series on my watch list
    Judge: Westworld

  • Matt Warburton and Mindy Kaling

    Despite Hulu's successful inroads on originals, the acquired comedy from this duo, both 37, remains its crown jewel.

    Job duty I'd pass off
    Kaling: "It would be fun to sometimes ask Matt to play Mindy Lahiri, so I could edit or run the writers room."
    Warburton: "Sewing Mindy's costumes."

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air
    Kaling: "It’s less common to come into the writers room and have the reasonable expectation that everyone watched the same shows the night before, with the exception of The Walking Dead or the Super Bowl."

  • Jason Katims

    One of Universal TV's favorite scribes, Katims, 55, has Hulu cult drama The Path, CBS procedural Pure Genius (Oct. 27) and a hot Showtime pilot.

    Most confusing network note "For a pot-smoking scene, it was OK to see them exhale, but you weren't allowed to see them inhale."

    Job duty I’d pass off "Pitching is not my favorite thing about the television business. It combines the writing process with selling — kind of odd bedfellows. It also, by definition, makes you present something very early on, before it's fully baked,  so you have to get all enthusiastic and make it sound more finished than it is. Sometimes you end up committing to ideas early on that really needed more time to gestate."

  • Courtney A. Kemp

    Cementing her drama as Starz's most valuable, the 39-year-old's Power returned for season three atop the pay cable heap (a network best 3.3 million viewers) and scored a two-season renewal.

    Most confusing network note "More drama, less conflict."

    Job duty I’d pass off "Being in New York, away from my kid."

    Next series on my watch list "More of Atlanta. It is sooooo good."

  • Nahnatchka Khan

    With her comedy providing a ratings foothold on Tuesday nights, Khan, 43, is developing other titles at longtime home 20th TV.

    Most confusing network note "We like that the son grows boobs, but we don't think they should be bigger than his dad's."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Nasim Pedrad because she’s hilarious and specific."

  • Marlene King

    Although King, 49, and fellow EP Oliver Goldstick wrap Liars in 2017, she'll stay at the network to launch the spinoff Bella Thorne drama Famous in Love.

    Job duty I'd pass off "Wardrobe. I'm a J.Crew girl living in a world of feather earrings and 9-inch stilettos."

    Person I couldn't do my job without  "My partner in life, Shari Rosenthal. Two mommies really pays off when you are running two shows."

  • Jenji Kohan

    A rich three-season renewal for Netflix fan favorite Orange Is the New Black keeps Kohan, 47, on the streamer through at least season seven.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "Not being able to devote all my time to watching all this great TV. Sucks having to be a grown-up and work when I could be sitting on the couch in yoga pants catching up on all these great shows."

  • Aaron Korsh

    Edgier shows (Mr. Robot and Queen of the South) have given USA street cred, but the cabler's longest-running drama remains its most-watched. Korsh, 49, extended his deal with Universal Cable Productions in January, with Suits getting a seventh season in 2017.

    Favorite place to write "In the comfort of full-season pickup."

    Most confusing network note ever "My first script as a staff writer, the studio executive loved the script and had virtually no notes. Then she called my showrunner right back and said the script wasn't funny but didn't want to say so in front of the writer. Not fun."

  • Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan

    The success of ABC's highest-rated show is owed to its cast and co-creators Levitan, 54, and Lloyd, 56.

    Most confusing network note ever
    Lloyd: "My writer-wife Arleen Sorkin once received: 'Can you make the character blacker, but not so black that it would have to be played by a black actress?'"

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air
    Lloyd:  "Maintaining your dignity and refusing to cheapen your show in a grab for ratings; we explore this important issue in an upcoming episode starring NFL great Peyton Manning."

  • Damon Lindelof

    The Lost alum, 43, is wrapping up his Peabody-winning series with a third and final season before focusing on other projects under his Warner Bros. TV pact.

    Job duty I'd pass off "The administration of the beatings."

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "Pretending that I’ve watched them all. I have no shame in bluffing my way through conversations about the second season of Bloodline, which I have every intention of watching immediately."

  • Chris Miller and Phil Lord

    In just a few years, Lord and Miller, both 41, went from writerly wunderkinds to a two-man entertainment empire — adding two new series for the 2016-17 season on top of the Will Forte-run Last Man on Earth and prepping Disney's Han Solo film.

    Most confusing network note
    Lord: "So this is kind of a Pandora's box story, right? But what if … Pandora doesn't open the box? Wouldn't that be better?"

    Next series on my watch list
    Miller: Fleabag

    Person I couldn't do my job without
    Lord: "Chris Miller" 
    Miller: "Chris Miller"

  • Chuck Lorre

    In its 10th season, CBS' Big Bang Theory (overseen by showrunner Steve Molaro) continues to be broadcast's top comedy draw. Lorre, 63, next tries his hand at streaming with the Netflix pot comedy Disjointed.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "There's 400 scripted shows?! Thanks. Now I'm worried we'll get canceled."

  • David Mandel

    Mandel, 46, seamlessly navigated the political satire through creator Armando Iannucci's 2015 exit, keeping the outstanding comedy Emmy and extending Julia Louis-Dreyfus' winning streak.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Val Kilmer because of [1985 comedy] Real Genius."

    Most confusing network note "I wrote a scene about a 22-year-old man-child desperately wanting the Star Wars toy that his parents did not buy him as a child. At the end of the episode, his parents get him the toy as a present. The network suggested that instead of a toy it should be an iPad, because that’s a cooler gift. And funnier."

  • Erica Messer

    The CSI franchise now kaput, Criminal Minds and its spinoff are all the more important to CBS. Messer, 42, filled the void left by fired star Thomas Gibson with returning fan favorite Paget Brewster.

    Job duty I'd pass off "Middle-of-the-night guilt when production is still shooting, but I must sleep."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Idris Elba because he’s got a charisma that makes you lean forward."

  • Ronald D. Moore

    The steamy Scotland-set Sony series from Moore, 52, ranks among cable's best performers with women; it broke through with three 2016 Golden Globe noms and nabbed a rare two-season renewal.

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Tom Cruise. His career has been exclusively in features, and I think that developing an ongoing character over the course of a long-running series would be an enormous opportunity for both him and a show."

    Most confusing network note "'Could we have more birthday parties or basketball games?' on Battlestar Galactica, shortly after the apocalypse."

  • Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk

    Their empire growing by the minute, Murphy, 50, and Falchuk, 45, gave FX its best Emmys ever (Thanks, O.J.!) and add a third anthology (Murphy's Feud) in 2017.

    Job duty I'd pass off
    Falchuk: "Production meetings."
    Murphy: "Choosing cars."

    Favorite place to write
    Murphy: "My kitchen table"

    Next series on my watch list
    Falchuk: "Westworld and The Good Place"

  • Marti Noxon

    Her Bravo scripted flagship renewed for three more seasons, Noxon, 52, has an aggressive development slate and the high-profile Amy Adams vehicle Sharp Objects heading to HBO.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "Finding stage space in Canada and writers with production experience who aren't working."

    Person I couldn't do my job without "My shrink."

    Job duty I’d pass off "Going to my shrink."

  • Tyler Perry

    Not content being the ratings king of OWN, Perry, 47, extended his scripted empire to TLC in 2016. Yes, even TLC has scripted drama now. And Too Close to Home has been renewed for a second season.

  • Julie Plec

    As Vampire Diaries prepares for the end, Plec, 44, oversees the Friday flagship and spinoff The Originals while developing new writers via her WBTV-based deal.

    Person I couldn't do my job without "The editors, the unsung, underpaid heroes of storytelling."

    Job duty I’d pass off "The role of bad cop."

  • Shonda Rhimes

    The most valued producer at ABC Studios, Rhimes, 46, has built ShondaLand into a fully formed production giant. Perhaps most impressive about Rhimes — she's EP on five shows, including Pete Nowalk's Murder — is the staying power of Grey's Anatomy, still ABC's No. 1 drama in its 13th season.

    Person I couldn't do my job without "My producing partner, Betsy Beers."

    Next series on my watch list "I got to see Luke Cage. That made up for a lot of missed TV."

    Favorite place to write "Any place where I can plug in my headphones."

  • John Ridley

    The Oscar winner's anthology, which tackles race and class with an aplomb likened to The Wire, has made him an MVP at ABC. Ridley, 51, also has high-profile miniseries Guerrilla coming to Showtime.

    Favorite place to write "Very into the Soho Hotel London right now. I mean, very."

    Job duty I’d pass off "Location scouting."

  • Melissa Rosenberg

    Rosenberg, 54, oversees TV's most acclaimed Marvel property that also is one of its most au courant, earning praise and driving conversation thanks to its female focus.

    Favorite place to write "My home office, which has a nice view to distract my internal demons."

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Tilda Swinton because she’s so facile and original. She disappears into roles, gender doesn’t even define her, she easily swings from funny to emotional, or from scary to warm. She’s utterly fascinating."

  • Mike Schur

    The post-Parks and Recreation life has been good to Schur, 40, and his Fremulon shingle. With the success of Brooklyn (with Dan Goor running day-to-day), he added Netflix breakout Master of None and returned to NBC with The Good Place.

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "Casting it well, thinking it all through and writing compelling stories with good jokes."

    Favorite place to write "My office, while watching baseball."

    Next series on my watch list "The Americans. Based on the admonishing looks of the writing staff, it's nearly criminal that I haven't watched it yet."


  • Jill Soloway

    Amazon's best asset, who soon will add a new series with the Kathryn Hahn vehicle I Love Dick, Soloway, 51, has enduring Emmy love (wins for directing and lead Jeffrey Tambor) and praise for bringing awareness to transgender rights.

    Favorite place to write "From a place of privilege. Just kidding! I write a lot while in the bath, and as long as water doesn't get on my laptop, I'm finoertinaeroihtnaaaaaaaa"

    Job duty I’d pass off "Reaching out, putting a pin in things and breastfeeding."

    Next series on my watch list "Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a storytelling goddess."

  • Darren Star

    Younger is the poster child for the revamped Viacom channel, as TV Land in March signed Star, 55, to an overall deal to further fuel its scripted push.

    Most confusing network note "The WB’s insistence on firing Amy Adams after the table read of Grosse Pointe. Also, Fox's reaction to Brenda losing her virginity [on Beverly Hills, 90210]: Please change her 'delight' to 'regret and remorse.'"

    The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Mary Tyler Moore would be amazing as Liza’s [Sutton Foster] mother."

  • Sarah Treem

    The cerebral playwright turned showrunner, 35, keeps her steamy drama in the conversation with what she calls "provocative and even frustrating" television.

    Next series on my watch list Northern Exposure

     The star I'd love to cast in a recurring role "Mia Wasikowska because my first job in TV was writing for her and I've missed her ever since."

  • Jennie Snyder Urman

    A CBS Studios favorite, Urman, 41, helms The CW's signature comedy and has several projects in development.

    Job duty I'd pass off "Dealing with integrations."

    Person I couldn't do my job without "Gina Rodriguez. Jane is such a demanding show, we shoot upwards of 70 scenes in seven days, and she's in almost all the them. It would simply be impossible without her talent, stamina and great big heart."

  • David Benioff and Dan Weiss

    With back-to-back Emmy wins, the co-creators have grown GoT from genre show into must-watch hit. The show, which has two abbreviated seasons left before the duo likely move on to other projects, is HBO's crown jewel with more than 25 million weekly viewers across platforms.

  • John Wells

    Wells, 60, is busier than ever as Showtime leans heavily on veteran Shameless (two seasons in 2016) and Animal Kingdom becomes a point of pride for rebranding TNT.

    Person I couldn't do my job without "[Producer] Chris Chulack."

    Hardest part of working with 400-plus scripted series on air "The lack of available experienced cast, crew, writers and directors.  With this many shows on the air the bench is increasingly limited."

  • Dick Wolf

    The rare producer to boast two franchises, Wolf, 69, continues to expand with upcoming Chicago Justice and Law & Order: True Crime. Twist! He's developing with One Direction alum Zayn Malik.

    Most confusing network note " 'Make it 20 percent funnier' — for a drama procedural."