Shonda Rhimes & 8 More Showrunners Who Secretly Mastermind All Your Favorite Shows
It's official: Shonda Rhimes is running TV. Well, to be specific, ABC; on Tuesday, Rhimes signed a four-year, eight-figure deal with the network that will keep the creator of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and the upcoming How to Get Away With Murder at ABC Studios through 2018. On the same day, it was announced that, come the fall, the channel's Thursday night line-up would consist solely of Rhimes' three shows, making "Shondaland Thursdays" — and her TV domination — officially a thing.
Ten years ago, Rhimes was best known for writing Britney Spears' Crossroads and the sequel to The Princess Diaries, but in the past decade, she's created two of the most talked-about shows in TV history, plus one more that's likely to follow suit. Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy is still garnering high ratings ten seasons in, and Scandal, as anyone who checks Twitter on Thursdays knows, is nothing less than a phenomenon. How to Get Away With Murder won't start until the fall, but chances are, if it's anything like Rhimes' other shows, it'll be an instant success.
Without a doubt, Rhimes is the most powerful TV showrunner working today. Her influence on pop culture grows every year — hell, even Crossroads has gained a cult following — and it's made all the more impressive by the fact that she's a black woman, the likes of which are rarely seen either on- or off-screen. In all of TV, both network and cable, there's simply no showrunner with as much clout as Rhimes. That doesn't mean no one else is trying, though. Here are the eight people (Rhimes not included) running TV as we know it today:
Shows on Air: Two and a Half Men; The Big Bang Theory; Mom; Mike & Molly (as producer)
You may not like him, but you gotta admit, Lorre knows what he's doing. The Big Bang is the most-watched comedy show in America, and Two and a Half Men will start its twelfth season in the fall. Mom and Mike & Molly are less successful, but only by CBS standards — which is to say, they're doing just fine.
Shows on Air: Glee; American Horror Story
Murphy currently has only two shows on air, but they've made a big impact. Glee may be missable now, but back in its first few seasons, it was must-watch TV. AHS has drawn bigger ratings every year, and has earned a number of Emmy nominations for its ever-changing cast. Murphy was also behind the cancelled The New Normal, a 2012 series got middling reviews but was memorable for starring a gay couple, a rare occurrence on network TV.
Shows on Air: Family Guy; American Dad; Bordertown (2015); Dads (as producer); Cosmos (as producer)
Like Chuck Lorre, you don't have to like MacFarlane's work in order to appreciate his influence. The comedian has amassed an empire over the last decade, and TV's only part of it; his directorial debut, Ted, was an enormous success, and his follow-up, May's A Million Ways to Die in the West , should be just as huge. Somehow, in between his ridiculous amount of projects, he also found time to become an Oscar-nominated songwriter. Love him or hate him, MacFarlane is one powerful dude.
Shows on Air: Parks and Recreation; Broad City (as producer); Old Soul (2015, as producer); Welcome to Sweden (as producer); Difficult People (as producer)
This time last year, Poehler, although obviously influential, wouldn't have made the list. The Parks star's production company had just launched, and had yet to take on new projects. Now, Poehler is behind some of the most anticipated new shows of the season, as well as Broad City, already a success (not to mention a feminist win). Let's hope the Reign of Amy continues for a long, long time.
Shows on Air: Battle Creek
No one else could've landed on this list with only one show currently to his/her name, especially one that hasn't even aired yet. Yet Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, has such enormous influence behind-the-scenes that not including him here would've been a serious oversight. Who knows if Battle Creek , a CBS drama starring Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters, will be as big a hit as Breaking Bad, but even if it's not, you can bet that the networks will continue to green-light anything Gilligan presents them. He's that good.
Shows on Air: The Vampire Diaries; The Following; Stalker
Williamson could have a new show on air every year for the next decade, and he'd still be known best as the guy behind Dawson's Creek. Still, his post-Creek work has been pretty impressive; The Vampire Diaries is the highest-rated show on the CW, and The Following, a Fox drama, was just renewed for a third season. Williamson's newest show, Stalker, was picked up earlier this week for CBS' fall schedule.
Shows on Air: NCIS; NCIS: Los Angeles
Americans like their crime shows, and they really like their NCIS. For eleven years, the police procedural has earned crazy high ratings; last year, in its tenth season, it was the most-watched show on TV. The L.A.-based spinoff does nearly as well, bringing in tens of millions of viewers each week. It's safe to assume that as long as Brennan wants to keep making TV, CBS will let him.
Shows on Air: Parenthood; About a Boy
Everybody likes an underdog, and in the TV world, that guy is Katims. The producer may not get the high ratings and huge support like that the others on this list receive, but over the past several years, he's developed the even more impressive reputation of the guy who makes some of the best TV you'll ever see. Like Friday Night Lights, Katims' most famous show, Parenthood is far from a ratings smash, but it's beloved by critics. About a Boy, just renewed for a second season, isn't yet must-see TV, but its first year was promising enough that it very well could be before long. Let's hope NBC, who knows well enough by now that Katims' shows get acclaim, if not viewers, gives it a shot.