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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.
Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, Bones (Fox)
My TV mentor:
Nathan: I had dinner last month with Carl Reiner and Norman Lear, and that was pretty amazing for me. I don’t know if they’re mentors but they might be idols.
The TV show that inspired me to write:
Hanson: I already knew I wanted to become a writer, but I knew I wanted to be in television when I saw a British miniseries called a Very British Coup and the Lonesome Dove miniseries.
Nathan: I loved the Dick Van Dyke Show.
My big break:
Hanson: I was up in Canada, so my earliest credit was on an iconic Canadian series — and I say that without irony — called The Beachcombers.
Nathan: My first writing job was Laverne & Shirley, which you can see leads perfectly into a crime show.
Hanson: You’re Laverne and I’m Shirley. Actually, if we’re talking about first professional jobs, Stephen originated the role of Jesus in Godspell.
The most difficult scene to write this year:
Hanson: It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s an episode coming up this season told from the point of view of a victim. I painted myself into quite a stylistic corner, and it was just really tough to write myself out of. Everybody had to help me out.
The most absurd note I’ve ever gotten:
Hanson: Mine was, “We don’t mind you shooting everything in one-ers, but you’ve got to get coverage.” So we could do everything in one shot, but they wanted them to include close-ups. That’s impossible.
Nathan: The greatest note I ever heard of was for a pilot to an unnamed network. It was about a black family in New York — a doctor and a lawyer — sort of a precursor to The Cosby Show. The note after reading the script was “How do we know they’re black?” That one made me mad.
The one aspect of my job as showrunner that I’d rather delegate:
Hanson: The thing I dislike most about being a showrunner is that if you’re doing it right, absolutely everyone is annoyed with you. And I wish I could push that annoyance onto someone else.
Nathan: I need a nap every now and then and I never get a chance to take one, so I’d have someone do that for me.
If I could add any one writer to my staff, it would be:
Hanson: Howard Gordon is looking pretty good right now, and we see him just enough to know that he really exists.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Nathan: I don’t watch consistently, but I did have a junk food binge last year on Million Dollar Listing LA.
Hanson: I used to watch Little People, Big World, and that sucked. But I used to watch it all the time, and hate it — and love it.
Nathan: What if the little people were real estate agents in LA?
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