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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.
Bruce Helford, Anger Management, FX
The show that inspired me to write:
Helford: Buffalo Bill. My sensibility is kind of edgy, and at that time it was an outrageously edgy show.
My big break:
Helford: Family Ties.
My TV mentor:
Helford: I have two. Gary David Goldberg, the creator of Family Ties. And Bob Ellison, a comedy writer who I worked with on Mr. Sunshine.
My proudest accomplishment this year:
Helford: Selling Anger Management to FX with only a pitch and no script.
My toughest scene to write this year:
Helford: The toughest scene to write was the opening scene of the pilot. There were so many characters to introduce and I wanted to make sure that we were fleshed out to the extent that the audience would have an idea of what was to come with them. In any pilot, the toughest scene is always where you’re introducing the characters in a way that you’re trying to say what you’re going to see in the future but you don’t have that much space to do it in.
The most absurd network note I’ve ever gotten:
Helford: I had a script [in the early 1990s] with an 11-year-old girl who was showing signs of being gay. And the note I got from the network was, ‘Couldn’t she have someone influence her to be gay, because being gay is not genetic.’ It was horrifying. I said, I would like to publish this in the New York Times, do you have a problem with that? They removed the note.
The aspect of my job as showrunner that I’d like to delegate:
Helford: The social socializing because I’m not very comfortable in crowds. You’re expected to attend a lot of get-togethers as a showrunner, and I’m not that kind of guy. I’m not a party guy; I’m not the guy who hangs out with everyone at the bar or goes golfing with the bosses. I’ve never been that guy, so I’d rather have someone being delegated to be a surrogate schmoozer.
My preferred method for breaking through writer’s block:
Helford: I just keep writing until it stops being crap.
The three things I need to write:
Helford: Music. Either Steely Dan or lately I’ve been listening an electronic music DJ called Diplo or Dead Mouse. I don’t need privacy because I actually prefer to be in the mix of things and have activity around me. And then a couch – I sit on a couch and write on a laptop.
The credit that I’d like to scrub from my resume:
Helford: A show Someone Like Me that I did for NBC and Disney. It was awful.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Helford: I actually enjoyed TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. Have you heard of that one? I was watching it and getting all caught up in the emotions of the bride. It was kind of fun.
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