From Shonda Rhimes to Shawn Ryan to Kevin Williamson, a peek inside some of TV's most creative — and wildest — minds
No one really understands show runners except other show runners, and one of the few windows into their world is Twitter.
Their short bursts of electric thought are among the only ways people outside their job get to see their creative processes, frustrations, and thoughts on each other's shows. It's no surprise many of the best show runners can't spare the time for Twitter. But for those that do, it's a way to vent and interact with fans — and each other.
Take this recent exchange between "Community" creator Dan Harmon and “Modern Family” co-show runner Steve Levitan, in which a compliment leads to the airing of an old grievance and a quick online détente:
Levitan to Harmon:I thought tonight's “Community” was amazing. Congrats to all involved.
Harmon to Levitan: Thank you, sir. We love your show and when I get drunk I get mad at you for saying you "even admire elements" of ours.
Levitan to Harmon: Yeah, I don't blame you – didn't come out the way I intended at all. A sincere compliment gone wrong. Haven't missed many eps.
So here we go, 15 show runners worth following:
Also see our previous guides: 25 Film & TV Writers You Must Follow on Twitter, 25 Movie Stars Worth Their Tweets, 30 Must-Follow Movie Insiders, 30 Must-Follow Music Insiders, 50 Must-Follow TV Insiders, 25 Must-Follow Media Insiders, 25 Must-Follow TV Superfans)
1. Kurt Sutter
“Sons of Anarchy”
Why Follow: The gold standard of show runner tweets. Cantankerous, honest, never dull. His ongoing back-and-forth with Shawn Ryan is a bonus, and he’s not afraid to speak freely about other shows.
Sample Tweet: “If Dexter was my show he'd be f—ing his sister by now… perhaps that would have saved the marriage… perhaps not.”
Be Prepared For: Not a lot of wondering what Sutter really thinks.
2. Dan Harmon
Why Follow: Great engagement with his readers, even when he’s calling critics poop faces, and a mastery of hash-tag humor.
Sample Tweet:"Robocop (of Penis) #FumbledPornTitles"
Be Prepared For: Like we said in our list of film and TV writers you must follow: #WeirdHash-TagUsage.
3. Hart Hanson
Why Follow: His bio really nails it: “Creator of TV series BONES, Canadian, married with two sons, slightly cranky.” Look for tweets about the show, his family life, and the Great White North – with the occasional NHL-worthy sharp elbow.
Sample Tweet: “Johnny Depp is starting to look like my Aunt Jeanne. Which leads me to suspect he likes liquor and cigarettes quite a bit.”
Be Prepared For: Personal stuff. (“I should be working on the spinoff script but I'm reading a novel and acting as referee while the family plays Scrabble. 'Jeel' is a word.”)
4. Shonda Rhimes
“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,”
Why Follow: The show runner of two ABC hit medical dramas and the executive producer of the upcoming “Off the Map” and another unnamed project seems to have a handle on everything happening on the set of every show, and offers plenty of insider details.
Sample Tweet: “One of my writers is engaged to a person who works behind the scenes on the show. A Private Practice union. Love it!”
Be Prepared For: Rhimes to tweet about how (understandably) tired she is. Also, lately, a lot about gingerbread houses. But who doesn't like gingerbread houses?
5. Bill Prady
“Big Bang Theory”
Why Follow: Mini-scoops about upcoming episodes, some solid jokes, and insider trivia. Did you know Prady worked at “The Muppets” at the same time Chuck Lorre worked on the “Muppet Babies” cartoon? But that they didn’t meet for a decade?
Sample tweet: "At this point, if you wanted to stage a Spider-Man musical, wouldn't it be easier to just get a kid and a radioactive spider?"
Be Prepared For: Some irritation for the folks at Sony. (“@sonyelectronics– how come your parts department never answered?)
6. Shawn Ryan
"The Chicago Code"
Why Follow: The creator of “The Shield” and the recently cancelled “Terriers” – and current show runner of the soon-to-debut “The Chicago Code” – breaks it down with brutal honesty.
Sample Tweet: “Seriously, thank you all for your #Terriers passion. A lot of good shows out there. Go find one now.”
Be Prepared For: A wee touch of cynicism. “Don't think so. 2 1/2 Men gets much better ratings.” (In response to a question about whether the just-cancelled“Terriers” will repeat in the summer.)
7. Kevin Williamson
“The Vampire Diaries”
Why Follow: Aspiring writers should pay attention to how much time Williamson seems to devote to the show he co-runs with Julie Plec.
Sample Tweet: “Gonna write tonight. All night.”
Be Prepared For: Guilt about how lazy you are compared to Williamson. (“Sunday morning. In the office writing. No one's here but @Young_Brian Where's @julieplec???”)
8. Julie Plec
“The Vampire Diaries”
Why Follow: Generous praise for other people’s books and shows (especially CW shows) and amusing asides about the “prettiest boy eyes on TV.”
Sample Tweet: “Friday Night Lights is breaking my heart. Why can't it just go on forever and ever?"
Be Prepared For: No complaints, really. Her mix of information and goofy musings is what Twitter is all about.
9. Josh Schwartz
“Chuck,” “Gossip Girl” (with Stephanie Savage)
Why Follow: Laid-back banter about the state of his shows, wry observations, and lots of love for Woody Allen.
Sample Tweet: “Chuck and Gossip Girl are the #1 and #2 most pirated show? So that's where our viewers are! #whatevermakesmefeelbetterontues”
Be Prepared For: More responses and RTs, lately, than tweets originating from Schwartz.
10. Steve Levitan
Why Follow: Frequent updates on the state of “Modern Family,” and support for causes he believes in.
Sample Tweet: “Cam's mom comes for a visit tonight. A very touching episode. And by that I mean lots of awkward touching.”
Be Prepared For: Not much drama, aside from the one exchange with Harmon.
11. Peter Lenkov
Why Follow: An ongoing dialogue with the show’s superfans that exemplifies the openness of the Aloha Spirit.
Sample Tweet: “Since you asked, don't miss the end of [episode] 103 and the open and close of 106.” (In response to a question about whether the show’s lead characters will start hanging out more, outside of crime-busting hours.)
Be Prepared For: A lot of campaigning for People’s Choice Awards.
12. Damon Lindelof
Why Follow: With no new show on the air, Lindelof show-runs vicariously by praising others’ shows, including “Community” and “The Walking Dead.” He's also got some solid one-liners.
Sample Tweet: This Eric Braeden/Neil Patrick Harris feud would be so much better if either of them could rap."
Be Prepared For: A lot of tweets about the Jets.
13. Seth MacFarlane
“Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show”
Why follow: A parade of sometimes naughty gags you’ll like if you like his shows.
Sample Tweet: “If John Edwards wants to talk to Elizabeth Edwards he can use John Edwards.”
Be Prepared For: A parade of sometimes naughty gags you won’t like if you don’t like his shows.
14. Jeff Eastin
Why Follow: Lots of follower engagement about his shows and others as well, and plenty of open-ended questions to create a sense of community.
Sample Tweet: “Help: Show's that have dropped their initial premise after 1st season and thrived – any examples?”
Be Prepared For: Occasional panic, if you’re a “White Collar” fan. “No, I'm not changing the premise of ‘White Collar,’” he clarified about the question above. “The question was related to another project.”
15. Matt Nix
“Burn Notice,” “The Good Guys”
Why Follow: A fan-friendly behind-the-scenes look at the “Burn Notice” and the “Good Guys.”
Sample Tweet: “I got to see director Jeffrey Donovan playing the role of Sam Axe at an audition today. Funny. Slightly disorienting.”
Be Prepared For: Almost bubbly cheerleading for his shows. Good for him.