Programming

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 1/19/2012 06:37:36 PM Eastern

Female-leading
roles can be just as diverse in today's television industry as male ones.

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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