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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.
The show that inspired me to write:
Falchuk: St. Elsewhere, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They were both so bold in their own ways. The afterlife episode of St. Elsewhere still resonates with me. And is there a better example of writing conflict than the dead Parrot scene? Those shows didn’t make me want to become a writer but they gave me a model for the kind of writer I wanted to be: Fearless.
My first big break:
Falchuk: A freelance episode of Earth: Final Conflict. It was a syndicated show. I did a couple of them and an episode of Mutant X. They would let me doone-offs but none of the shows would hire me to be on the staff.
My TV mentor:
Falchuk: Ryan Murphy. He gave me my first real staff job.
My proudest accomplishment this year:
Falchuk: Keeping both shows on the air and thriving. I’m very proud of the quality of the work both last season and this upcoming season.
My toughest scene to write this year:
Falchuk: The school massacre scene for American Horror Story. It wasn’t hard as a writing exercise, it came pretty quickly actually, but I think to do it right you have to emotionally put yourself or the people you care about in the situation you’re writing.
The one aspect of my job as showrunner that I’d rather delegate:
Falchuk: Returning phone calls and emails. I suck at it. I’m sorry to everyone I owe a return call or a reply. The list is long and distinguished.
My preferred method for breaking through writer’s block:
Falchuk: I watch scenes from The Sopranos on YouTube. I’m very dyslexic so reading is hard but I find that listening to great writing gets me over my whatever is scaring me.
If I could add any writer to my staff, it would be:
Falchuk: Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation). His Fire Joe Morgan blog was a must read.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Falchuk: The 2012 Boston Red Sox. I know they have a team ERA of 4.59 and they are in last place and have had two comeback wins all season but I just can’t quit them.
The three things I need in order to write:
Falchuk: Sweet potatoes — they’re like super food. Internet access — I have to know that at any moment I can escape from the scene I’m writing and Bruce Springsteen — I don’t listen to music while I write but I have all of these great pictures of the Boss in my office. They were all gifts. It’s basically a wall of Bruce. He inspires me.
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