Hollywood's 50 Most Powerful TV Showrunners of 2018

6:00 AM 10/17/2018

by Mikey O'Connell

The Hollywood Reporter's annual rundown of the most influential creators includes those executive producers with the Netflix gold — congratulations again, Ryan Murphy — as well as emerging talents like Jordan Peele and Lena Waithe.

Kenya Barris, phoebe waller-bridge and jesse armstrong- Split-Getty-H 2018
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This is the agony and ecstasy of Peak TV.

For the most prolific writer-producers, nine-figure deals are now commonplace. Scratching into that upper echelon, however, seems nearly impossible when U.S. scripted output is poised to surge past 500 series. But in a room full of screams for attention, these are the voices that cut through.

The Hollywood Reporter’s annual rundown of TV’s 50 most influential creators includes those EPs with the Netflix gold — congratulations again, Ryan Murphy — but also accounts for talent making an impact with infinitely smaller resources.

In corner offices or writers rooms, they all have one thing in common: Everybody wants to be on their team. See the most powerful TV showrunners of 2018 below.

  • Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil

    After two years gestating in their move from BET to Warner Bros., married multihyphenates Mara, 48, and Salim, 54, returned to TV in 2018 with gusto. Black Lightning marked. The CW’s highest-rated debut in two years, and on OWN, the loosely autobiographical Love Is _ opened to strong reviews and a speedy renewal. 

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Salim: Castle Rock

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now

    Mara: “Finding unique and experienced voices … oh, and being able to afford them … oh, and getting them to only focus on your show.”

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Salim: "Kung Fu"

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been

    Mara: "Showrunners set the tone for respect. My mother, grandmother and aunt taught me how to be a good human being, which miraculously translates into being a decent boss. Shorter answer: I don't know what's happening in other writers rooms or how they've changed. For me it's business as usual."

  • Jesse Armstrong

    With breakouts increasingly difficult to come by, this British import bucked the trend, hijacking the summer TV conversation and giving HBO its latest watercooler show. The drama, a thinly veiled satire of the Murdoch and Redstone families, averaged 4 million weekly viewers and saw creator 46-year-old Armstrong, who wrote for Peep Show and The Thick of It, become one of the hottest stateside scribes.

    Why won’t Hollywood let me write …The Great Gatsby for Marvel? His superpower is charm.”

    Our room’s most popular takeout spot “Writers are provided with a novelty drinking hat loaded with two pints of chicken and broccoli soup to be sucked through a straw between pitches.”

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Triangle. It’s a 1980s U.K. show about a North Sea ferry plying the waters between three hubs of international glamour: Felixstowe, Gothenburg and Amsterdam."

  • Kenya Barris

    Following a long run and a number of headaches at ABC, the Black-ish creator scored the industry’s latest massive Netflix deal — valued in the high eight figures. But he’s hardly done with Disney. The 44-year-old still has his 13-time Emmy nominee, Freeform spinoff Grown-ish, forthcoming Besties and, barring sudden loss of interest, a hot reboot of Bewitched in the works with Black-ish scribe Yamara Taylor. 

    The show we discuss most in our writers room Succession on HBO! It’s super slept on.”

    Why aren’t more people in the industry talking about … “How an overcorrection of issues can lead to short-lived resolutions that don’t bring about real change.”

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be  "Voting in the morning, drinking in the afternoon and glued to my TV at night."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "Is it shameless of me to say … Bewitched?"

  • David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

    Again winning best drama at the Emmys, Game of Thrones heads into its final season as, perhaps, the biggest show on TV. Benioff, 48, and Weiss, 47, have wrapped photo­graphy on the final six episodes, which will air in 2019. After that, there's still HBO drama Confederate (considered a long shot after a controversy over its racially charged premise), but their future seems to lie in features. In February, Disney announced the duo would tackle a series of Star Wars films.

  • Alec Berg, Bill Hader and Mike Judge

    Berg, 49, is now at the center of HBO’s male-skewing comedy brand — showrunning both Silicon Valley with Judge, 55, and upstart Barry with star and co-creator Hader, 40. The two series shared 20 Emmy nominations between them in 2018. Barry scored three wins, including one for Hader’s performance and a career first for co-star and TV legend Henry Winkler.

    What defines a “hit” right now

    Hader: "I have no idea. I can't even define 'show' right now."

    Why aren’t more people in the industry talking about …

    Hader: “Detroiters! That show is hilarious.”

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Hader: "I discuss my time at SNL and South Park, Alec discusses his time at Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Silicon Valley, and the writers tune us out."

  • Greg Berlanti

    The entirety of Berlanti’s TV portfolio can no longer be said in one breath. The 46-year-old uberproducer, who inked an insane deal valued at as much as $400 million to stay at Warner Bros. through 2024, now has a record 14 series on the air across six networks and platforms — including new streaming outlet DC Universe, which launched on the back of three Berlanti series.

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now “There’s so many shows, but many have shorter seasons. It’s timing things so a writer can possibly work on multiple projects.”

    What defines a "hit" right now “The intensity of passion of the audience.”

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "Please, please The West Wing."

  • Robert Carlock and Tina Fey

    Their niche Netflix series, an annual nominee for best comedy, debuts its final six episodes in early 2019. A wrap-up movie is still being negotiated, while the UniversalTV-housed scribes have several other projects in development right now — including one potential script that would reunite Fey, 48, with 30 Rock partner-in-snark Alec Baldwin.

  • Carlton Cuse

    Signing a new deal to return to ABC Studios in 2017, the Lost scribe, 59, is shifting his focus from genre cable to pricey big swings on streaming platforms. He launched Tom Clancy adaptation Jack Ryan on Amazon in August and will be the producer to finally translate hot comic property Locke and Key, which landed at Netflix after years in development purgatory. His mandate at ABC now is to mine its IP for streamers — both competitors and the Disney one launching in 2019. 

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now “That it’s like baseball free agency at its height. There’s crazy competition for top talent.”

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Killing Eve."

  • Lee Daniels and Danny Strong

    Empire may not be the juggernaut it once was, but that hasn't stopped co-creators Daniels, 58, and Strong, 44, from building a new dynasty at Fox. As the broadcast network looks to its studio-free future, one with less room for scripted fare, substantial drama real estate still belongs to the duo, who produce Star (Daniels) and midseason's Proven Innocent (Strong) separately. Daniels was among the first to re-up his deal at 20th TV after news of the Disney acquisition.

    Why won't Hollywood let me write …

    Daniels: "A queer superhero?"

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be …

    Strong: "Hiding under my bed."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about …

    Daniels: "Whether it's more important to be woke or to be talented."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Daniels: "Julia."

    Strong: "The A Team! I love it when a plan comes together!"

  • Matt and Ross Duffer

    Some scribes take their hit and immediately broaden their roster. The 34-year-old Duffers, despite no shortage of offers, have only doubled down on their Netflix phenomenon. And they're taking their time, no matter how much viewers are clamoring for it or how quickly their cast is aging. Season three of the 30-time Emmy nominee, which is said to be one of the secretive streamer's top performers, will arrive at some point in summer 2019.

    What defines a "hit" right now

    Both: "We have no idea … but Netflix does!"

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Both: "Mad About You. We need more Paul Reiser!"

    Why aren’t more people in the industry talking about …

    Both: "Smooth motion [aka the "soap opera effect"] — fingers crossed Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson can fix this for everyone."

  • Ava DuVernay

    With her celebrated small-screen foray Queen Sugar entering its fourth season, DuVernay, 46, continues to give opportunities to first-time showrunners and directors on the OWN hit. The coming year sees her expand her TV empire to broadcast with Red Line and streaming with Central Park Five. The latter, a timely tell-off to Donald Trump, will have her writing and directing TV for the first time since the Queen Sugar pilot.

    What defines a "hit" right now "A true point of view that taps into some part of the zeitgeist with authenticity."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "The underlying issues that instigate the need for diversity and inclusion. Instead of looking at cosmetic solutions, we should delve into the root causes. You can't heal a disease with perfume."

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been "Queen Sugar has had majority women writers in all four seasons since debut. We also had majority women writers on Central Park Five and The Red Line. Issues of dignity for women have always been at the top of our minds."

  • Sam Esmail

    Mr. Robot doesn't wrap until 2019, when Esmail will already be well into his next act. The increasingly prolific producer has buzzy Julia Roberts vehicle Homecoming at Amazon, while prepping a post-Shameless act for wife Emmy Rossum — a limited series about L.A. per­sonality Angelyne (based on an article in THR).

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Maniac, obviously."

    What defines a "hit" right now "Since streaming networks don't release numbers, it's fortunately quality over ratings."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Voting against the terrible buffoon in the White House, and encouraging everyone I know to do the same."

  • Dan Fogelman, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger

    This Is Us returned for its third season with a robust 4.9 rating among adults 18-49 and 16.3 million viewers, which, although the premiere was down 25 percent from last year, is evidence that audience members aren't sick of ugly-crying yet. Aptaker and Berger, who joined Fogelman's creation to assist with day-to-day reins on broadcast's biggest hit, signed on to write and produce an Amazon feature for Nicole Kidman and penned a critical favorite in rom-com Love, Simon in early 2018. (Fogelman, 42, had less fun with his recent film foray, Life Itself.)

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be …

    Fogelman: "Drinking heavily."

    Why won't Hollywood let me write …

    Aptaker: "A body-swap comedy with Tiffany Haddish and Channing Tatum? I promise it will be funny and about something. Anyone?"

    Berger: "I continue to hope nobody will trust Isaac to write that body-swap comedy so that I don't somehow get roped into having to do it."

  • Scott M. Gimple

    Taking a step back from his aging flagship — no longer the beast it once was, with a live 2.5 rating in the key demo and 6.1 million viewers for its ninth premiere, on Oct. 7 — Gimple is now charged with charting the course for the future of AMC's Walking Dead franchise. The producer, 47, assumed the newly created role of chief content officer of the property in January (Angela Kang has picked up day-to-day showrunning). He's focused on development, as the network will no doubt make several more attempts at spinoffs.

    What defines a "hit" right now "Less to do with a single week than it does with a single year."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Voting and asking, 'Why Tuesday?' I'm going to be asking other people to start asking that, too."

  • Donald Glover

    His series' near-shutout was one of the biggest shocks of the 2018 Emmys, but that means little when you've got almost every contemporary and critic on your side. Atlanta remains one of Hollywood's (and FX's) favorite shows, renewed for a third season that's suspected to start filming in early 2019. The "Teddy Perkins" episode, written by its 35-year-old creator, topped the list of his fellow showrunners' most- discussed pieces of work this year.

  • Adam F. Goldberg

    A workhorse for studio Sony Pictures TV, Goldberg scored a surprise win during pilot season when his passed-over 2017 Goldbergs spinoff pilot (finally) made it to air. It did well in the ratings, prompting an ABC pickup — and enviable status as the dominant comedy showrunner on the Disney-owned network for the 2018-19 season.

    "New Fox" should be "24 hours a day of The Orville, which is the most underrated show on TV."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "The fact that there have been multiple drafts of The Goonies 2, but none have been made. How do you not make The Goonies 2? How?"

  • Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan

    Skipping a year of Emmy eligibility, Breaking Bad sibling Better Call Saul returned to AMC in August with no less love from critics. The drama boasts an average 87 on review aggregate Metacritic and — more important to AMC — it remains a surprisingly robust performer. The season averaged roughly 3 million viewers on the network's typically soft Monday night. Gilligan, who re- upped at Sony for $50 million, is prepping his next act.

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about …

    Gilligan: "The fact that the TV business is starting to take all the wrong lessons from the movie business."

    What defines a "hit" right now

    Gould: "Getting enough screen time to finish the story right. But not one minute more."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …
    Gilligan: "We’ve got enough reboots of old TV shows, thank you — though selfishly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a new version of The Lone Gunmen."

  • Noah Hawley

    When Hawley takes a break from Fargo, it's for good reason. The 51-year-old FX auteur recently announced that the anthology's long-delayed fourth season will star Chris Rock. In the interim, he's had the critically liked but low-rated Legion, a rare Marvel success in traditional TV, which just got the nod for a third season despite initial signs it would only go for two. Hawley shifts his focus back to his TV properties this fall after wrapping production on feature debut Pale Blue Dot.

  • Bruce Helford

    The Conners may be too new to technically qualify for this list, but there's been nothing normal about Helford's 2018. Shepherding the reboot of Roseanne, he was behind the No. 1 series on TV — an average 5.7 rating in the key demo and 20 million viewers —until he was behind nothing. Helford, 66, proved pivotal in the negotiations to bring the comedy back under a new name without star Roseanne Barr.

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now "For a multicam showrunner, it's finding writers who understand that 'sitcom' doesn't mean writing down to people. Also, decreased writing budgets."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "George Lopez, because of the drought of Latinx experience on mainstream TV. But I may be biased."

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Saturday Night Live or Shameless"

  • Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan

    Westworld is a divisive show, but it's also one of the biggest. HBO's Reddit bait, from Joy, 41, and Nolan, 42, averaged 10 million viewers in its second season and again stunned at the Emmys with 21 nominations. Its future at HBO is considered wide open, especially with Game of Thrones about to end.

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now

    Joy: "Finding writers who share my love of cake over pie."

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Nolan: "Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Joy: "Reading Rainbow."

  • Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce

    Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court fate is hours from being sealed when television icon Norman Lear gathers with his One Day at a Time showrunners Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce on a crisp fall morning in Boston.

    Having spent a six-decade career infusing political debate into his collection of sitcom classics, from Good Times to All in the Family, the 96-year-old would love to do the same with the ferocious judicial battle gripping the country — just as he would with whatever controversy Donald Trump is stirring up that week. But like so much else about the industry since Lear got his start in the 1950s, the way in which viewers consume content has changed dramatically, as has the way stories are told.

    "We can be topical but not timely," explains Calderon Kellett, 43, of their critically adored Netflix collaboration. While all 13 scripts for the Latinx revival's forthcoming third season already are written, they won't be available for viewing until spring 2019. "You can't deal with Kavanaugh," says Lear with some frustration, "or even talk about Trump because we don't know between now and February whether he'll even be president."

    The trio's wide-ranging conversation extends to the impact of #MeToo, nine-figure overall deals and the benefits (and burden) of adapting the work of a legend.

    Click here to read the full story. 

  • David E. Kelley

    Now in his second — or is it third? — golden age of TV, the legendary scribe translated Big Little Lies' runaway success into a casting coup (Meryl Streep for season two) and a second project at HBO. Kelley, 62, and BLL star Nicole Kidman will follow the sophomore run with limited series The Undoing. Elsewhere, his Stephen King adaptation Mr. Mercedes is the de facto flagship of AT&T's Audience Network.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "The news."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "I don't love reboots. Creativity works better from scratch."

  • Courtney Kemp

    Still under an exclusive pact with Power network Starz and producer Lionsgate, Kemp helms a massive drama that brought in nearly 10 million multiplatform viewers during its fifth season. The 41-year-old has beefed up her development efforts — see near-miss ABC pilot Get Christie Love — most recently tapping Universal Cable Productions vet Danielle De Jesus to run her End of Episode shingle.

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now "It used to be that only a few of us were looking for great writers of color. Now it's everyone. It's a great thing for the industry and for writers of color, but it's definitely a challenge."

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been "Straight guys feeling attacked, like, 'Why can't I give a compliment anymore?' A lot of people are talking about #MeToo but missing the point entirely." 

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "It's a 30 Rock joke, a show called Black Frasier, but I would love to see it."

     

  • Nahnatchka Khan

    Five seasons into her ABC comedy, the 20th Century Fox scribe is again at the center of TV's rep­resentation debate — thanks to her sitcom recently sharing a star (Constance Wu) with box-office gem Crazy Rich Asians. Despite several recent broadcast passes, Khan, 45, is actively developing other projects and recently lined up her feature directorial debut: a rom-com with FOTB's Randall Park at Netflix.

    What defines a "hit" right now "An algorithm locked away in Netflix's Department of Mysteries."

    "New Fox" should be "Old Fox, but without the news."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "Dinosaurs — but make it gay!"

    Why won't Hollywood let me write … "A gay version of Dinosaurs!"

  • Michelle and Robert King

    With their King Size Productions set up in New York, the Kings have seen surprise success in spinoff The Good Fight. A third season arrives in 2019, though Emmy attention continues to evade the critical favorite. Michelle, 56, and Robert, 59, recently renewed their deal at CBS TV Studios, where they've got projects in the works at Showtime (Your Honor), CBS (Evil) and another for Good Fight streamer CBS All Access (Girls With Guns).

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Robert: "Can we count The Godfather as a show? If not, The Great British Baking Show or Killing Eve."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about …

    Michelle: "Censoring ourselves for Chinese distribution. It's kind of ghastly."

    Why won't Hollywood let me write …

    Robert: "Religious material? It's like we're in the opposite of the Hayes Code. Any religious reference has to be cutesified with cherubs or God as Santa Claus or cut altogether. TV is so worried about offending people — both religious and nonbelievers — that they run away from interesting issues of faith and death."

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been

    Michelle: "Since Kavanaugh, things have probably got angrier."

  • Jenji Kohan, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch

    The first big TV writer to get locked in with a Netflix deal, Kohan still has Orange Is the New Black (heading into season seven) and long-gestating American Princess on deck at Lifetime. But it's her collaboration with Flahive and Mensch that has the most buzz of late. GLOW cemented itself as a new favorite in 2018 with a popular second season and 10 Emmy nominations. The '80s-set wrestling comedy helped push Netflix past HBO in the Emmy nomination race. The pair also has a series in the works with Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Flahive and Mensch: "It's a tie between The Golden Girls and Succession. We're all obsessed with cousin Greg."

    What defines a "hit" right now

    Flahive and Mensch: "If you're still on the air?"

    Why won't Hollywood trust us to write …

    Flahive and Mensch: "Stories about men, but we're OK with that."

  • Aaron Korsh

    The only person on this list who got an invite to the royal wedding, Korsh saw his USA series bid adieu to star turned duchess Meghan Markle at the top of the year. Replacement Katherine Heigl has helped stabilize ratings, while Korsh, 51, has focused on a spinoff starring Suits alum Gina Torres.

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been "The level of awareness around the issue. We discuss things not only as they relate to the real world, but it's absolutely impacted the choices we've made in the lives of our characters."

    What defines a “hit” right now "I believe if you’re focused on being a hit, you’re in trouble. Obviously, we all want our shows to be loved, but all we can do is try to make something we’re proud of and hope it strikes a chord with enough people that one of our stars eventually marries the Prince of England."

  • Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd

    Modern Family, now in its 10th season on ABC, seems poised to sign off in 2019 — but not so fast. Producer 20th Century Fox coming under the Disney umbrella has heated up talks of a continuation or potential spinoff for the flagship comedy. Levitan, 56, and Lloyd, 58, find themselves at a crossroads for the first time in more than a decade, and it's one that's given them considerable leverage.

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Levitan: "Anything but Hogan's Heroes."

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been

    Levitan: "How much we talk about 'Me Too.'"

  • Chuck Lorre

    With Big Bang Theory set to end, Lorre has set up a stable heir in spinoff Young Sheldon. The sophomore season returned with 13.4 million viewers on CBS, where Lorre still has Mom and a potential multicam with Mike & Molly star Billy Gardell. The future for the 65-year-old sitcom vet, however, may be away from CBS. Big-swing single-cam effort The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, arrives on Netflix Nov. 16.

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "Dharma & Greg."

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Dharma & Greg."

    "New Fox" should be "Thinking about making deals with Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Transferring my Dharma & Greg VHS tapes to DVD."

  • David Mandel

    Veep ceded its Emmy-winning streak only because it sat out a year. But HBO's presidential Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy soon returns for its seventh and final season — following a hiatus during the star's public battle with breast cancer. Regardless of what happens now, its legacy is beyond secure. Of its 59 Emmy nominations, it has won a stunning 17 — including two series wins under Mandel, 48.

  • Bruce Miller

    Though it failed to repeat 2017's stunner of a year at the Emmys, The Handmaid's Tale remains Hulu's most prized possession, a prestige drama that manages to find its way into the news cycle on a near-weekly basis. Eager to stay in business with Miller, 53, Hulu and MGM handed him a significant overall deal in April.

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "Mental health in our community. As long as it stays hidden, the problem will continue to shorten careers."

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now "Finding talented, curious, empathetic, experienced television writer-producers with interesting voices and points of view."

  • Ronald D. Moore

    With Outlander still making Starz viewers blush and one-off anthology Electric Dreams a conversation starter at Amazon, Moore, 54, now focuses on one of the bolder orders for Apple. Incoming drama For All Mankind, which envisions a world where the space race never ended, just added Joel Kinnaman and Sarah Jones to its cast.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Barry."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "The possibility of telling narrative stories in virtual reality."

  • Peter Morgan

    Like Doctor Who with corgis, The Crown reinvents itself again with an all-new cast to play the royal family in season three. The second of three planned iterations includes Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter and Tobias Menzies. Morgan, 55, continues to see the bar raised on his pricey series, especially now that his original Queen Elizabeth II, Claire Foy, has an Emmy for her time on the Netflix drama.

  • Ryan Murphy, Tim Minear and Brad Falchuk

    Murphy's $300 million deal with Netflix sent shockwaves through the industry in February. He already has dramas Ratched and The Politician set up at the streamer. Up until recently, the 52-year-old split showrunning duties across his massive 20th Century Fox TV roster with Falchuk, 47, and Minear, 54, where his parting gifts included a commercial hit (Fox's 9-1-1) and a passion project that baited critics (FX's Pose).

    What defines a "hit" right now Falchuk: "If my teenaged daughter and stepdaughter are talking about it."

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been Minear: "More consideration and deeper conversation about the pernicious and pervasive stream of misogyny in our industry."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Falchuk: "The Obama administration."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be …

    Minear: "Avoiding the studio calling about a late script."

  • Max Mutchnick and David Kohan

    What Helen's face did for ships, Will & Grace has done for reboots. The resurrected NBC comedy was the catalyst for Roseanne and Murphy Brown. Ratings are not what they were a year ago, recently pulling just a third of its 2018 premiere, but multiplatform lifts are impressive, and Mutchnick, 52, and Kohan, 54, have already secured a third — or is it 11th? — season.

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been

    Kohan: "The trapdoor."

    Mutchnick: "What trapdoor?"

    Kohan: "The one we would fall through if we answered this question."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be …

    Kohan: "Voting, then praying."

    Mutchnick: "Then watching Rachel Maddow."

  • Marti Noxon

    When a streaming deal couldn't be secured, Noxon, 54, saw the rug pulled out from under her subversive AMC freshman Dietland, but her 2018 has had way more good than bad. Limited series Sharp Objects is poised for awards dominance over the coming year, even if a follow-up to the Gillian Flynn murder mystery is in limbo.

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been "Not much, because it was already a no-harassment/no-asshole zone. I've been fortunate that I've been able to dictate the culture in the room, from who gets hired to how you set the ground rules from the very beginning, for a while now."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Wishing I still drank."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "Love, American Style. An anthology rom-com? Bring it on."

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Hannah Gadsby's Nanette was a must see, must discuss. And Succession was a big favorite."

  • Jordan Peele

    Peele's follow-up act to his Oscar win for Get Out is almost shockingly aggressive, lining up four TV projects in little over a year. All under his Monkeypaw Productions shingle, the 39-year-old comedian hit the jackpot in locking down Tiffany Haddish for TBS' The Last O.G., while prepping big projects for HBO, Amazon and CBS All Access — where he'll also host his Twilight Zone reboot. Rod Serling, eat your heart out.

  • Prentice Penny and Issa Rae

    Insecure, recently commissioned for a fourth season at HBO, brought star and co-creator Issa Rae, 33, her first Emmy nomination for best actress in a comedy in 2018. It's also made her a household name. A modest performer, Insecure may speak more about the future of HBO than anybody could have predicted. The critical hit, manned by comedy vet Penny, costs comparatively little and opens the AT&T-owned network to new audiences.

    The most significant change to writers rooms since #MeToo has been

    Rae: "The use of 'Me Too' as a verb — e.g., 'Oh yeah, he got Me-Too'd.'"

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Penny: A Different World, Girlfriends, Living Single

    What defines a "hit" right now

    Rae: "The social media conversation or high ratings. The 'or' is a big difference now."

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be …

    Penny: "A Different World, Girlfriends, Living Single."

    Rae: "Golden Girls, but with black women. I know someone with a great script."

  • Tyler Perry

    For Viacom, Tyler Perry cannot come soon enough. The struggling cable giant is betting (very) big on the prolific producer, who officially moves his empire from OWN to BET at the top of 2019. There, he'll be making roughly 90 episodes of television a year. For now, he's still got OWN powerhouse The Haves and the Have Nots pulling near 3 million viewers a week.

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Using my pickup truck as a Uber to bring loads of people to the polls."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "Taraji P. Henson's performance in The Best of Enemies?!"

  • Shonda Rhimes

    Kicking off her Netflix tenure with an aggressive eight-series slate, the indomitable Rhimes, 48, most recently optioned the rights to sci-fi book Recursion for the streamer. Still, her broadcast roots are not letting up. Four Shondaland series, including lingering heavyweight Grey's Anatomy — the drama returned with a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 for the season 15 premiere — still populate ABC.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Every show gets discussed obsessively. Personally, I'm just waiting for The Crown to come back."

    Why won't Hollywood let me write … "No one ever got anywhere asking this question. Write first and get trust later."

    On Nov. 6, Election Day, I'll be … "Voting while quietly weeping and waiting for this apocalypse to stop already."

  • Michael Schur

    Pivotal in the NBC resurrection of Fox's dismissed Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Schur sees his sitcom count climb to three on the Peacock net for the current season. In addition to prestige comedy The Good Place, he's also got Abby's, an experimental multicam that's being taped al fresco.

  • Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino

    Mainstream success evaded the Gilmore Girls creator for decades, but no longer. Maisel pushed Amy Sherman-Palladino, 52, into TV's inner circle — simultaneously doing the same for Amazon, which squeezed eight Emmys out of her period comedy. Alongside co-showrunner and husband, Dan, Sherman-Palladino has an overall deal with the streamer and carte blanche to use it however she likes.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room

    Both: "The Tonight show with Jack Paar. Because we are set in the late '50s, and we are writing about an aspiring comedian, Jack Paar comes up a lot — as does Steve Allen, Howdy Doody and the first season of The Twilight Zone."

  • David Shore

    Now 59, Shore gave ABC exactly what every broadcast network has been looking for over the past decade: a big, broad medical drama. The Good Doctor has gifted the network with an heir to aging Grey's Anatomy, a juggernaut on Mondays that recently returned for season two with 12.5 million viewers. The rare breakout inspired producer Sony to extend Shore's overall deal in July.

    The biggest challenge to staffing right now "The same as it's always been … finding good writers that you don't mind spending half your life with."

  • Jennie Snyder Urman

    Finally getting that Charmed reboot on the air, Urman, 43, is also anchoring a new night for The CW: The network expanded to Sundays on the back of her latest series. Mainstay Jane the Virgin will wrap at the end of its coming fifth season, but the creator has several projects in the works with CBS TV Studios to fill any void.

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "The Americans. It's been five months. I miss it."

    What defines a "hit" right now "If my mom's heard of the show."

  • Darren Star

    Growing its audience every season, Star's Younger shifts to TV Land sibling Paramount for its coming sixth season. There, Viacom is betting on the 57-year-old scribe to deliver viewers to the fledgling network with both the cult favorite and the newly ordered Emily in Paris.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Our national reality show. It's a challenge to keep focused."

    What defines a "hit" right now "A show with a fiercely loyal fan base."

  • Lena Waithe

    Waithe became a phenom thanks to her 2017 speech at the Emmys, where she won for writing an episode of Master of None. The 34-year-old multihyphenate followed that up by creating The Chi (quickly renewed) for Showtime, placing pilot Twenties at TBS and writing an indie feature starring Daniel Kaluuya.

    If they have to reboot another show, it should be … "The Comeback."

    Why aren't more people in the industry talking about … "Dime Davis and Random Acts of Flyness."

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Atlanta."

  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge

    Waller-Bridge has fashioned herself into one of the most sought-after writer-producers working right now. The 33-year-old Brit guided the first season of BBC America breakout Killing Eve, a pro­ject that scored her an Emmy nomination for writing. And, while she may be turning her attention elsewhere after voicing a sensual robot in Lucasfilm's Solo, she is writing and starring in a second season of her Amazon breakout, Fleabag. Her HBO pilot, Run, is said to be a lock.

  • John Wells

    His Showtime flagship may be hemorrhaging stars — say "goodbye" to Emmy Rossum and Cameron Monaghan — but Shameless still has a hold on 8 million viewers every week, outranking all other originals on the cable network. As for the 62-year-old TV vet, he went rogue in May, buying his own fac­ility in Hollywood and moving off the Warner Bros. lot after two decades.

    The show we discuss most in our writers room "Killing Eve. Wonderful writing, fantastic cast and direction. We never know what's going to happen next."

    "New Fox" should be "Taking the kind of risks in programming that defined the first 'New Fox' when it came on the air and stirred everything up 32 years ago."

  • Dick Wolf

    At 71, Wolf seems interested only in increasing his output. For the 2018-19 season, he's expanded his reach to another network with CBS' early breakout FBI, while seeing his series count at NBC climb to five. On top of three Chicago shows, now dominating the demo on Wednesday night, he's landed a new Law & Order spinoff. Hate Crimes premieres in an episode of SVU in the spring.

  • Alan Yang

    Though he's courted by many, Yang, 35, will not be tied down at one outlet. The Master of None showrunner followed up his Aziz Ansari smash with NBCUniversal-produced projects at Netflix rivals Apple, where he's working on anthology Little America, and Amazon — home of recent critical hit Forever.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.