Show runner
Showrunner is a term of art
Technical terminology
Technical terminology is the specialized vocabulary of any field, not just technical fields. The same is true of the synonyms technical terms, terms of art, shop talk and words of art, which do not necessarily refer to technology or art...

 originating in the United States and Canadian television industry referring to the person who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of a television seriesalthough such persons generally are credited as an executive producer. (This should not be confused with runners, who are the most junior members of the production team, though sometimes showrunners are referred to as 'runners' in shorthand.) The term is also occasionally applied to people in the television industries of other countries. Unlike films, where directors are typically in creative control of a production, in episodic television the showrunner usually outranks the director.

Traditionally, the executive producer of a television program was the "chief executive," responsible for the show's production. Over time, the title of executive producer became applied to a wider range of roles, from those responsible for arranging financing to an honorific without actual management duties. The term "show runner" was created to identify the producer who actually held ultimate management and creative authority for the program. The blog (and book) Crafty Screenwriting defines showrunner as "the person responsible for all creative aspects of the show, and responsible only to the network (and production company, if it's not his production company). The boss. Usually a writer."

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

columnnist Scott Collins describes show runners as:

An interview with Shane Brennan
Shane Brennan
Shane Brennan is an Australian writer and producer for television; more popularly known as the creator of the American CBS drama, NCIS: Los Angeles....

, the showrunner for NCIS
NCIS (TV series)
NCIS, formerly known as NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is an American police procedural drama television series revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducts criminal investigations involving the U.S...

and NCIS: Los Angeles states that:
Traditionally, the showrunner is the creator or co-creator of the series, but this is not always the case. In long-running shows, often the creator of the show moves on, and day-to-day responsibilities of showrunning falls to other writers or writing teams. Law & Order
Law & Order
Law & Order is an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It aired on NBC, and in syndication on various cable networks. Law & Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and completed its 20th and final season on May 24,...

, ER
ER (TV series)
ER is an American medical drama television series created by novelist Michael Crichton that aired on NBC from September 19, 1994 to April 2, 2009. It was produced by Constant c Productions and Amblin Entertainment, in association with Warner Bros. Television...

, The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

, The West Wing, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe...

and NYPD Blue
NYPD Blue is an American television police drama set in New York City, exploring the internal and external struggles of the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan...

are all examples of long-running shows that went through multiple showrunners.


In the Canadian television industry
Television in Canada
Television in Canada officially began with the opening of the nation's first television stations in Montreal and Toronto in 1952. As with most media in Canada, the television industry, and the television programming available in that country, are strongly influenced by the American media, perhaps...

, many terms generally accrued to writers are in dispute. "Showrunner" is one of these terms, with many non-writing producers recently trying to claim the term, as the Canadian TV industry has traditionally been a line-producer
Line producer
A line producer is the key manager during the daily operations of a motion picture production.The line producer supports the vision given by the director but does not have direct influence on the creative expression or narrative of the film....

 driven industry. Many producers, citing the difficulty of getting programs financed and off the ground, look to claim the title for themselves.

In Canada, as writers and producers struggle for primacy, the term showrunner has become a football, with many writers refusing to acknowledge non-writing showrunners, and producers resisting giving "producer" credits to writers. Partly due to this confusion and controversy, in 2007 The Writers Guild of Canada
Writers Guild of Canada
The Writers Guild of Canada represents more than 1,800 professional writers working in film, television, radio, and multimedia production in Canada...

, the union representing screenwriters in Canada, established the Showrunner Award at the annual Canadian Screenwriting Awards
Canadian Screenwriting Awards
The Canadian Screenwriting Awards are administered by the Writers Guild of Canada, and are awarded to the best script for a feature film, television or radio project produced within the Guild's jurisdiction, written by a guild member in good standing, and broadcast or released in North America or...

, partially to call attention to this fact, and to the role of "writing" as an essential component of the showrunner title. The first "Showrunner Award" was presented to Brad Wright
Brad Wright
Brad Wright is a Canadian television producer, screenwriter and actor. He is best known as the creator or co-creator of the television series Stargate SG-1 , Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe...

, Executive Producer of Stargate Atlantis
Stargate Atlantis
Stargate Atlantis is a Canadian-American adventure and military science fiction television series and part of MGM's Stargate franchise. The show was created by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper as a spin-off series of Stargate SG-1, which was created by Wright and Jonathan Glassner and was itself...

, and Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1 is a Canadian-American adventure and military science fiction television series and part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Stargate franchise. The show, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, is based on the 1994 feature film Stargate by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich...

, in April 2007.

United Kingdom

The concept of a "showrunner", specifically interpreted as a writer or presenter with overall responsibility for a television production, began to spread to the British television industry in the first decade of the 21st century. The first writer given the role of showrunner on a British primetime drama was Tony McHale
Tony McHale
Tony McHale is a British actor, writer and director who has the dubious honour of being best known as a "stooge" to Jeremy Beadle on Game For A Laugh and later, Beadle's About. He trained at Rose Bruford College. He also enjoyed a long stint as a writer/director on the top rated BBC1 soap opera...

, creator of Holby City
Holby City
Holby City, stylised as Holby Ci+y, is a British medical drama television series that airs weekly on BBC One.The series was created by Tony McHale and Mal Young as a spin-off from the established BBC medical drama Casualty, and premiered on 12 January 1999...

, in 2005. However, it was Russell T Davies' work on the 2005 revival of Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

that brought the term to prominence in British television
British television
Public television broadcasting started in the United Kingdom in 1936, and now has a collection of free and subscription services over a variety of distribution media, through which there are over 480 channelsTaking the base Sky EPG TV Channels. A breakdown is impossible due to a) the number of...

 (to the extent that in 2009 a writer for The Guardian wrote that "Over here, the concept of 'showrunner' has only made it as far as Doctor Who"). Davies explained to Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson
Mark Gerard Lawson is an English journalist, broadcaster and author.-Life and career:Born in Hendon, London, Lawson was raised in Yorkshire and is a Leeds United fan. He was educated at St Columba's College in St Albans and took a degree in English at University College London, where his lecturers...

 that he felt the role of the showrunner was to establish and maintain a consistent tone in a drama. Doctor Who remains the most prominent example of a British television programme with a showrunner, with Steven Moffat
Steven Moffat
Steven Moffat is a Scottish television writer and producer.Moffat's first television work was the teen drama series Press Gang. His first sitcom, Joking Apart, was inspired by the breakdown of his first marriage; conversely, his later sitcom Coupling was based upon the development of his...

 having taken over the post from Davies. However, the term has also been used in reference to other writer/producers, such as Tony Jordan
Tony Jordan
Tony Jordan is a British television writer. He was listed as the number 1 television screen writer in the UK by Broadcast magazine and among British Broadcastings Top 20 in The Stage ., He currently resides in Hertfordshire, UK.For many years, he was lead writer and series consultant for BBC One...

 on Moving Wallpaper
Moving Wallpaper
Moving Wallpaper was a British satirical comedy-drama television series set in a TV production unit. It ran on ITV for two series in 2008–2009. The subject of the first series was the production of a soap called Echo Beach, each episode of which aired directly after the Moving Wallpaper episode...

and Echo Beach
Echo Beach (soap)
Echo Beach was a short-lived British teen-drama series that aired on ITV in 2008. Set in the fictional Cornish coastal town of Polnarren, it ran for twelve weekly episodes from 10 January to 21 March 2008...

, Ann McManus on Waterloo Road
Waterloo Road (TV series)
Waterloo Road is an award-winning British television drama series, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 9 March 2006. Set in a troubled comprehensive school in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, the series focuses on the lives of the school's teacher and students, and confronts social...

, and Adrian Hodges
Adrian Hodges
Adrian Hodges is a British television and film writer.He began his career in journalism for Screen International magazine and his screenwriting debut was the 1991 television drama Tell Me That You Love Me, followed by screenplays for The Bridge and Tom & Viv for which Miranda Richardson and...

 on Primeval
Primeval or primæval may refer to:* Primeval, a British science fiction television series.* Primeval , a 2007 film* Primeval , a score of music from the BBC TV series Doctor Who...

. The first British comedy series to use the term was My Family, which has had four showrunners since its debut in 2000. Initially, the show was overseen by creator Fred Barron
Fred Barron
Fred Barron is an American television producer and writer.-As a writer:*After You've Gone*According to Bex*Union Square*My Family*Caroline in the City*Dave's World*The Larry Sanders Show*Sessions*Displaced Person...

 from series 1–4. Ian Brown and James Hendrie, the show's most prolific writers, took over for series 5, followed by American writer Tom Leopold
Tom Leopold
Tom Leopold is an American comedy writer, performer and novelist. He has written episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers and several books. He has often been associated with Chevy Chase, Harry Shearer and Paul Shaffer in various projects...

 for series 6. Former Cheers
Cheers is an American situation comedy television series that ran for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993. It was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions, in association with Paramount Network Television for NBC, and was created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles...

showrunner Tom Anderson has been in charge since series 7.
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