Showrunner is a term originating in the United States television industry referring to the person who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of a television series. Such persons are usually credited as an executive producer.
The showrunner is at the opposite end of the staff hierarchy from runners, who are the most junior members of the production team and who function more like gofers, though sometimes showrunners are called runners for short. The term is also occasionally applied to people in the television industries of other countries.
The duties of a showrunner often combine those traditionally assigned to the writer, executive producer and script editor. In films, the director is in creative control of a production; in episodic television, the showrunner outranks the director.
Showrunner vs "TPTB"
See also: The Powers That Be.
In fannish vernacular, the term "TPTB" (The Powers That Be) can refer to the showrunner of a television series. However, TPTB is usually a group of people which may also encompass the production studio or executive(s) behind a showrunner, while "showrunner" generally refers to a single person or a team of not more than two people.
On several occasions, TPTB have angered fans by replacing a showrunner. This decision tends to go over poorly with fans, because a change in showrunner frequently leads to a change in the quality of the product that fans are invested in. A number of changes in showrunner tends to signify a decline in the quality (at least in the eyes of fans) of a once-beloved television show.. This further illustrates the distinction between a showrunner and the group that ultimately has creative or legal control over a franchise.
Showrunners and fans
The popularity of a showrunner within a fandom may depend not only on the perceived quality of the written scripts and the satisfaction of the fans with story arcs and character development, but also upon the extent and type of their engagement with the fans of a show.
Showrunners such as Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Dead Like Me, American Gods), Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files, MillenniuM) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse) are known for embracing all things fandom. Other showrunners, such as Chris Carter (The X-Files, MillenniuM) are notorious for having next to no interaction with the fanbase besides some appearances on convention panels.
Notable showrunner interactions with fandom
During the second and third seasons of The 100 TV show, a ship war began to heat up between fans of the pairing Bellamy Blake/Clarke Griffin, or Bellarke, and Clarke Griffin/Lexa, or Clexa. The writers and showrunner of The 100 found themselves inundated with tweets from shippers supporting one pairing or the other, and accusing the showrunners of favouring a particular side.
Eventually, things reached a point that showrunner Jason Rothenburg appealed to fans to put an to end the ship war:
This ship war has to stop. Everyone, on both sides, please chill the fuck out. It's just a show. Watch or don't, but show respect.
For more detail, refer to Bellarke vs Clexa.
List of notable showrunners
- J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost)
- David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones)
- Chris Carter (Carterverse)
- Bryan Fuller (Fullerverse)
- Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead)
- Eric Kripke (Supernatural)
- Glen Morgan and James Wong (Space: Above and Beyond, MillenniuM)
- Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock (BBC))
- Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica (2003))
- Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee)
- Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
- Aaron Sorkin (West Wing)
- Frank Spotnitz (Crossing Lines, Hunted)
- J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5)
- Joss Whedon (Whedonverse)