Showrunners 2012: 'Rizzoli & Isles'' Janet Tamaro

On her proudest accomplishment in the past year: "Not tapping my health insurance for a long stay in a sanitarium … and finding enough fun, fresh, produce-able ideas in a continuing series, while staying on a basic cable budget."

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. 

Janet Tamaro, Rizzoli & Isles (TNT) 

The TV show that inspired me to write:
 It’s not that I didn’t and don’t love TV. I do. And it’s not because I’m sucking up to my parents, who wouldn’t let me watch TV when I was a kid. I nearly electrocuted myself trying to reconnect a plug to an electrical cord my father had severed because he caught us watching TV. The truth isn’t sexy: books made me want to be a writer. But maybe that’s because the TV didn’t work…

My first big break:
 I wrote a freelance episode while still working as a journalist. That was season one of Law & Order: SVU.

THR's Top 50 Showrunners 2012 -- the Complete List

My TV mentor:
Tamaro: My mentors were all from news. I was a television correspondent before I started writing TV dramas. Blame me. Could be I was a lousy mentee thanks to too many years of trying to learn the basics of nuclear physics in an hour so I wasn’t a complete blockhead when I interviewed the world expert in fission. Looking back, I wish I’d been less afraid of appearing “dumb” while asking a truckload of “dumb” questions. This whole thing might’ve gone faster. John Jacobs, great political reporter, told me I had the goods. Bob Young, John Tomlin and Bill O'Reilly assigned tough news stories without regard to age (I was goofy young) or gender. Every news director I worked for: you learn fast they don't suffer fools.  

My proudest accomplishment this year:
 Not tapping my health insurance for a long stay in a sanitarium … and finding enough fun, fresh, produce-able ideas in a continuing series, while staying on a basic cable budget.

My toughest scene to write this year:
Tamaro: Pretend that you watch the show so you know what I'm talking about: the scene where Jane and Maura first meet. Too many fans had built up absurdly high hopes about that scene... Made me nauseous to think about writing it. I believe I typed it in the fetal position under my desk...

The most absurd note I’ve ever gotten:
 OK, this is really unfair because my face still flushes scarlet at the memory of a few of my early pitches. Hart Hansen: I’m sorry I suggested using a playing card, albeit a metal-edged one, as a murder weapon. One executive gave this note on an interracial romance script I’d written: “Can they both be white?” Uh…not really…

The one aspect of your job as showrunner that I’d rather delegate:
Tamaro: There is honestly nothing I would ask someone else to do that I wouldn't do myself. That is the truth. I kinda love what I do. And I come from a big family. Once you stopped teething, you had chores.

My preferred method for breaking through writers’ block:
Tamaro: More geeky self-truths: I work out. Sounds better if I give you that whole “body-mind” speech. But exercise is my heroin. It’s one of the few times when I finally turn off RADIO K-F--- in my brain and chill. That’s when the ideas come to me.

If I could add any one writer to my staff, it would be:
Tamaro: Tom Wolfe. Please don’t tell him I said that…

The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
 Man, you really know how to embarrass a girl! Do I have to say? What if it was a reality show? Would you tell TNT & Warner Brothers and/or any of my writer friends?? Fine. Project Runway. Are you happy now?

The three things I need in order to write:
Tamaro: A chance to see my bed every night for an uninterrupted stretch, my treadmill, desk and Peet’s coffee. That’s a lie. Peet’s low-fat, flat, extra-hot latte. But I thought you might judge if I added all the adjectives.

If I could scrub one credit from your resume, it would be:
 The year I scraped together enough money to go to graduate school by writing fabulous missives about pineapple cutters in Dole’s P.R. department: “It slices and dices." Aloha?