On getting her start winning a Nickelodeon screenwriting contest, resolving the season one cliffhanger and her obsession with reality TV.
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.
THR's Top 50 Showrunners 2012 -- the Complete List
Emily Kapnek, Suburgatory, ABC
The show that inspired me to write:
Kapnek: I would have to say Saturday Night Live. I grew up watching and it blew my little mind.
My big break:
Kapnek: My first major writing job was doing my own animated series for Nickelodeon called As Told by Ginger. Believe it or not, I wrote the pilot script for a contest that Nickelodeon/Klasky-Csupo held. It came in first place-- and we wound up doing 60 episodes.
My biggest accomplishment this year:
Kapnek: Creatively, I would say the season two pickup felt pretty amazing. I've always known not to count chickens before they hatch, but when they hatch it's pretty exciting.
My hardest scene to write this year:
Kapnek: The opening scene of the season two premiere. We had a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of season one, then because of our late premiere date, we needed to jump ahead so our show wasn't lagging behind, seasonally, plus our time slot moved and it was requested that we re-pilot the premise and re-establish the characters for new viewers. So trying to accomplish all of these things while maintaining creative integrity was tricky.
The part of my job as showrunner that I wish I could delegate:
Kapnek: Having to administer a stern talking to is my least favorite part of the job. If someone is doing something wrong, I prefer they magically stop.
My preferred method of breaking through writer's block:
Kapnek: I like to take my writer's block out to a movie. Maybe lunch. Sometimes I'll take it to Anthropologie to look at home furnishings. Mine really seems to like this. If I try to just push through it, it never happens. I never write anything good. But if I get up and let myself off the hook for a while, things are magically better when I sit back down.
If I could add one writer to my writers room, it would be:
Kapnek: Charlie Kaufman.
The show I'm embarrassed to admit I watch:
Kapnek: Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. My husband and I are also both obsessed with the Real World Challenges.
The three things I need to write:
Kapnek: Truly, I don't really NEED anything...but I sincerely appreciate a Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi on the rocks.