The History of the Showrunner

Emily Nussbaum has written a wonderful history of showrunners, and how their status has waxed and waned over time:

[I]t wasn’t until 1990 that TV experienced a truly cataclysmic cultural event: the premiere of Twin Peaks, a series that was described, again and again, as being “like nothing else on TV.” The show stood out not merely for its style but for the way it was made, as the product of one big, weird brain, conceived by the intimidating David Lynch, he who had directed Blue Velvet (middle-aged ­nudity, bug-covered ear). At this point, I’d graduated from college, and my friends and I would gather to watch, thrilling at ­David Duchovny in drag, retro brunettes with bruises, dwarves, cherry pie, and a general air of adult perversion. Within a few episodes, we all agreed the series had gone off the rails (a flash-forward to future TV fanhoods), but it was the first time I’d watched a show while thinking—with worship and anxiety and eventually a twinge of betrayal—about the person who had created it.

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