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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.
GARY GLASBERG, NCIS (CBS)
SHANE BRENNAN, NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
The TV show that inspired me to write:
Glasberg: We had appointment television in my house growing up. I have vivid memories of watching everything from Mary Tyler Moore to M*A*S*H to Roots with my parents. That said, St. Elsewhere left me saying, “I want to do that for a living.”
Brennan: I wanted to be a feature [film] writer until I saw Hill Street Blues. That show was instrumental in turning me away from big screen dreams to small screen reality.
My big break:
Glasberg: My first hour-drama writing job was for UPN on a short-lived show called Swift Justice. The program lasted nine episodes and then died. I kept going.
Brennan: A cop show, what else? And the name of that Australianshow: Cop Shop.
My TV mentor:
Glasberg: Story wise, I learned a tremendous amount from Alan J. Pakula and James L. Brooks. But a man named David Balkan (Hunter) taught me how a TV show runs. I am forever appreciative.
Brennan: I didn’t have a mentor as such until I’d been writing for 15 years… when I had the great fortune to work with Lee David Zlotoff, who created MacGyver. Lee and I worked on The Man from the Snowy River, a television series shot in Australia for a cable channel here in the U.S. He was generous, supportive and encouraging and convinced me to give U.S. television a try. And yes, Lee had been a writer on Hill Street Blues.
My proudest accomplishment this year:
Glasberg: Writing and producing NCIS‘s 200th episode and running the year’s most watched TV show. Proud is an understatement.
Brennan: My 33rd wedding anniversary.
My toughest scene to write this year:
Brennan: The one I’m writing now. It was due yesterday.
The most absurd note I’ve ever gotten:
Brennan: You want just one? Really? Just one? OK, I was once asked to replace a lead character’s pink blouse with something lighter in color … “like a burgundy.” Huh?
The aspect of my job as showrunner that I’d rather delegate:
Glasberg: Writing staffs constantly evolve. Sometimes you have to make changes. Staffs are like families. It’s never easy making an adjustment. Truth is, it can’t be delegated. It comes with the job.
Brennan: There’s no one to hide behind when you’re a showrunner. You really can’t delegate any of the crappy stuff.
My preferred method for breaking through writers’ block:
Glasberg: When production calls and reminds me prep is a week away, writers block goes away pretty quick.
If I could add any one writer to my staff, it would be:
Glasberg: I hear that Shakespeare guy is good, but he’s a little long-winded.
Brennan: William Shakespeare. Just to ask him how the hell he did it.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Glasberg: I prefer guilty pleasure to embarrassed. I love anything on the Food Network.
Brennan: The Engadget Show. On the Internet. OK, I’m a geek.
The three things I need in order to write:
Glasberg: I like to take my shoes off, keep the coffee pot full, and listen to a lot of movie scores.
Brennan: Pencil. Paper. Sobriety, though not always.
If I could scrub one thing off of my resume, it would be:
Brennan: I’ve never left a credit off my resume… the good, the bad and the oh-my-God-what-were- you-thinking all have their place in honing your writing skills. Some of the best lessons are learned on the lousiest shows.
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