Showrunners: Female Leads Are Just 'Characters'
Panel explains the impact of so many female-led comedies; how social media has changed fan reaction during HRTS luncheon
By Tim Baysinger -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/19/2012 6:37:36 PM
That was the consensus from a panel of showrunners at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society's latest edition of its newsmaker luncheon series "The Hitmakers," Thursday at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.
"We're talking about characters, not sexes," said CBS' 2 Broke Girls creator/executive producer Michael Patrick King, who said that female leads don't have to necessarily be typecast, as long as they are funny or interesting. "What I felt was missing for the audience were girls that were funny," said King. "I didn't feel there was a Jennifer Aniston or a Lisa Kudrow on TV."
Liz Meriwether, creator/executive producer of Fox's New Girl, argued having a female writer behind the show lends authenticity to them. "That's what was missing, a sense of female characters written from an honest place." Dave Finkel, an executive producer on the show, says that authenticity is what drove him to work on New Girl, the ability "to do something a little textural and different." Finkel said that just because its a female-led comedy, its storylines are not gender-specific. "Everybody has those experiences."
Another notable change in the industry, the panel said, is how social media has affected audience reaction, most notably the speed and vigor of it.
"It's oddly intimate and cold at the same time," said King. The Web also allow fans to hide behind the anonymity that the internet provides, thus allowing for harsher comments.
Bret Baer, an executive producer for New Girl, on the other hand, thinks the instant reaction can help the writers and producers gain a better understanding of what works and doesn't work. "I think its pretty instructive, as long you don't take any of it too seriously."
Glen Mazzara, who took over as showrunner for The Walking Dead this season, following the ousting of the show's creator, Frank Darabont, says he felt the pressure from fans to keep the series on top of its game, creatively. "The show has a tremendous fanbase," says Mazzara. "I was really afraid of being branded as the guy who [ruined] the show."
For most shows, says Justified's showrunner Graham Yost, it takes time to work out the kinks when a series first starts. "You don't know how long its going to take before you really know what you're doing," he said.
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