Raunchy Showrunner Panel Breeds Insight into TV Business


A group of television’s top showrunners and exec producers - Graham Yost (Justified); Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead); Liz Meriwether (New Girl); Dave Finkel (New Girl) and Brett Baer (New Girl) - spoke about working on hit shows on a panel moderated by Peter Tolan (co-creator of Rescue Me) during the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s Newsmaker Luncheon: The Hitmakers Thursday afternoon in Beverly Hills, Calif.

While Tolan is known for his over-the-top personality and propensity to swear and stir up the pot while moderating, it was more unexpected to see the panelists immediately join in on the raunchy banter. No less than 5 minutes into the panel, Tolan dropped the “C” word, shortly followed by Meriwether who called actress Lee Meriwether a “C”. King was also not timid about making pointed references to knowing Tolan when both were straight, essentially “outing” Tolan in a public manner.

But the candid, at times inappropriate, tone did set up a discussion that at was insightful.

On this being the “Year of the Women” on television, with comedies such as New Girl, 2 Broke Girls and Whitney on the air.

New Girl’s Meriwether said having a female writer behind a show lends authenticity to the characters. “That’s what was missing, a sense of female characters written from an honest place.”

King said he was compelled to create 2 Broke Girls because he felt that “ballsy, funny girls” were missing in the television landscape. “I didn’t feel there was a Jennifer Aniston or a Lisa Kudrow on TV.”

New Girl’s Finkel argued just because just the main characters are woman, the storylines are not gender-specific. “Everybody has those experiences.”

On the immediacy of Twitter

“It’s oddly intimate and cold at the same time,” said King of the social media that allows for instant reactions to his show.

New Girl’s Baer said, “I think it’s pretty instructive, as long you don’t take any of it too seriously.”

On taking over a show with a huge fanbase

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. “I was convinced if it didn’t come together, my career was dead. I was really afraid of being branded as the guy who f***** up the show.”

On previous working environments

Yost said he left the as a writer on Full House after a mere 9 ½ weeks, just before he believes he would have been fired. His edgy style was not a fit for the group. He revealed that the writers room on the family comedy was “a mean little room” and was extremely “bitter and political.” And as luck would have it, Yost quit on a Friday and by Tuesday, he had sold Speed.

Tim Baysinger contributed to this report