May 8, 2006Feature
What fate awaits the post-Palladino Gilmore Girls?
Showrunner swaps are not uncommon in the television industry. Many have left their babies in the hands of others. There are many reasons for this — disputes with the network, contract negotiations, other commitments and obligations, or just growing tired of the project and wanting to move on.
Seinfeld suffered when Larry David jumped ship during its seventh season. Will & Grace's Jeff Greenstein and Jhoni Marchinko dropped their executive producer duties on their already-sinking series to act as consultants. And just last week, Desperate Housewives executive producer Tom Spezialy allegedly stormed off the set for unknown reasons and it is rumored that he will be replaced next season.
|They deal with the daily operations of the show, give the OK for every creative decision, big or small, and usually guide a show's storyline from its beginnings to its final end.|
It is fair to say that things are different once a new showrunner takes on a show that has been on for a while and has already established a unique voice. A new showrunner is almost always chosen from within the production team, thus already has a rapport established and knows the show well enough to take on this new promotion. However, there is always the fear that a "new guy" will imply a change in tone, and pretty much lead the show down a turn for the worse. And given past examples, such fears are not unwarranted.
The same can be said for Alias creator JJ Abrams. He served as showrunner for the show's first two seasons before leaving it in the hands of Jesse Alexander. He was still showrunner by name, but needed someone to take over while he worked on other projects. The show took a nosedive in quality and ratings soon after his departure.
It wasn't until he was working on Lost's pilot episode did he notice that Alias had lost its direction during the third season. Disappointed, Abrams vowed to bring back the show to its roots, to what made it special in the first place. The show needed Abrams to pick up the pieces and bring the show back to the characters and the key relationships that were beloved by fans from the get-go. And now, with the series finale just episodes away, Alias has seen an increase in ratings as of late.
|But when Noxon got the brunt of viewers' angry complaints regarding a less-than-stellar season, she defended herself, saying that she did nothing to ruin the series. According to her, she was just going along with Whedon's plans for the series.|
However, sometimes even a showrunner that is in it for the long haul can be the one that signs a show's death warrant. Joss Whedon, for example, promoted Marti Noxon to executive producer prior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season: Whedon had his hands full with Angel and Firefly. But when Noxon got the brunt of viewers' angry complaints regarding a less-than-stellar season, she defended herself, saying that she did nothing to ruin the series. According to her, she was just going along with Whedon's plans for the series.
And, after all, Chris Carter was still around when The X-Files ended on a sour note.
Even with The West Wing and the creative slump it suffered sans Sorkin, it took an upward turn for the better this past season. It could be due to the nostalgia the television-viewing audience is facing with it being the show's final season. But it could also be the return of old characters, the stellar writing, and exciting storyline that has been leading the series in a positive direction. And it was done without Sorkin.
So where does that leave Rosenthal and his new gig? Is he doomed, as history shows, to be remembered as the man that ruined Gilmore Girls? Probably not: at the moment, viewers seem to be pretty hopeful that he can dig the show out of the hole that Sherman-Palladino has dug it into.
|It is not to say that she, or other showrunners past and present, can so easily be replaced and that their time and effort spent on their respective shows were not valued and appreciated. Sometimes, even the most creative people get stuck in a rut.|
It is not to say that she, or other showrunners past and present, can so easily be replaced and that their time and effort spent on their respective shows were not valued and appreciated. Sometimes, even the most creative people get stuck in a rut.
And maybe, just maybe, some fresh minds and input could be what a series is sometimes so desperately in need of.
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