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From their obsessive rituals (Peppermint Patties! Oatmeal! Bruce Springsteen!) to the parts of their jobs they hate most (killing characters off, dealing with agents), TV’s most influential writer-producers featured on The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual list of the Top 50 Showrunners come clean about the people, things and quirky habits that keep them — and their shows — alive.
Cynthia Cidre, Dallas (TNT)
The TV show that inspired me to write:
Cidre: The Avengers. When it went off the air, I was really angry. That was my first letter that I wrote to the local station.
My big break:
Cidre: In Country, a movie I wrote long, long ago for Warner Bros. That was my first feature job that got made. One day, I got a call from my agent saying Sylvester Stallone wants to meet you because he has a pilot idea about a priest that CBS wants you to write. When I came back from vacation and after meeting with him, I got a message from a friend that said congratulations. He sent me a front-page story saying “Cidre, Stallone doing pilot.” I called my agent and she said, ‘We made the deal.’ That was my first pilot, Father Lefty; it was picked up, we made it. It was during when the priest scandals broke and it was dead before it could hit the air.
My TV mentor:
Cidre: Nina Tassler. A Killing in a Small Town was one of the highest-rated TV movies CBS had ever shown, so without me knowing it I was on the network’s shortlist for writers. I ended up writing five pilots for CBS, made three and put one (Cane) on the air. She’s the one I owe a lot too.
My toughest scene to write:
Cidre: The toughest scene to shoot was a dinner scene with eight people around the dining tablethat took an entire day. At the end of it, my ears were bleeding. It was pathetic, in the actual episode, it was maybe a minute-and-a-half scene.
I’d rather delegate:
Cidre: Writing. I don’t love writing. Writing is hard for me. It’s a language thing, it comes out backwards. I know exactly what I want to say, it’s just hard for me to find the words. I think more in patterns rather than words. Dallas is perfect for the way I’m wired because it’s serialized; in the first season, I saw it as a 10-hour movie. It looks like a giant Sudokuboard to me.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Cidre: People’s Court. I worked at home up until now, I’d have my lunch at 1 p.m. and I’d watch People’s Court. The best way to get to know human nature is to watch people.
The three things I need in order to write:
Cidre: A Sumo pencil with a special lead that’s soft and dark; regular 8 1/2” x 11” white paper like it appears on the page with sluglines and everything before I type it out; and then I put everything on a chart with diagrams.
If I could scrub one credit from my resume, it would be:
Cidre: And Baby Will Fall. There’s no reason for you to watch that — ever.
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Melvin Van Peebles