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August 29 2008

From Abrams to Whedon: TV's most inventive minds. A National Post feature on the five most talented men in the industry.

Nice article, and I'd have to agree (although they should have squeezed in Ronald Moore.) Everything these guys do is genius.
I was with it for the first three. But I loathe Family Guy (I liked it high school, though), and Chuck was never as great as it was hyped up to be, so I don't really see MacFarlane and Schwartz as particularly great. Ronald D. Moore definitely needs to be on that list.

It's also very satisfying to see Bryan Fuller finally getting his due. I'm quite glad Pushing Daisies has been successful, although I still think Wonderfalls was his best show.
It was actually Joss himself who worked on Roseanne, not his father as the article indicates. Ronald D. Moore really should be there. Maybe Rob Thomas (VM) as well.
Here's a question, who are the most talented and inventive women in the industry?
I never got into Wonderfalls, but Dead Like Me just (re)started airing over here, and so far I really like what I've seen (just the pilot).

In spite of Studio 60 I would pick the brilliant Sorkin & Schlamme duo over everyone in the list except offcourse Joss. Greg Garcia (Earl), Mitchell Hurwitz (thanks for the AD recommendation Zeitgeist, just finished watching, it went way to fast but I absolutely loved every bit of it), Rob Thomas, and Amy Sherman-Palladino could all have been included too. And then offcourse there also is live outside the U.S.A.
Yeah, EditorAl, I was kind of irked that they said Joss wasn't the one who wrote for Roseanne.

And Dollhouse has the vaguest, most tenuous connection possible to The Truman Show.

Really, the only person on this list whom I agree with is Joss. Abrams is a hack who got lucky with Lost, and thankfully is barely involved with the show anymore; Schwartz's shows are not, in a word, good (okay, Chuck is mildly amusing); Family Guy may be a guilty pleasure of mine, but it hardly means that MacFarlane is some kind of genius, a point that is especially proven by the terrible American Dad!; and I confess almost total ignorance of Fuller, so I can't really judge whether or not he should be on here. I liked the first episode of Pushing Daisies, though, and I've always wanted to see Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me.

A better list would've been Joss, Ronald D. Moore, Greg Daniels, Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer, and Mitchell Hurwitz (since he does actually have a new show on the air this fall).

Simon, Amy Sherman-Palladino is a very talented woman. I would include her on this list except for the fact that The Return of Jezebel James was terrible and was canceled after three episodes this spring. I'm hoping her next project has a little of the Gilmore Girls magic.
Welcome, Groo!

Here's a question, who are the most talented and inventive women in the industry?

Well, this being Whedonesque, I'm sure we'll hear (and rightly so) Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon, Liz Craft & Sarah Fain. I would also say Toni Graphia and Tina Fey. I also think Sherri Stoner is underappreciated as is the amazing Tress MacNeille. There's probably some love out there for Shonda Rimes, Cindy Chupack or Jenny Bicks, I imagine.
And let's not forget Diane Ruggiero!
Oh, yeah, good catch!
I'd add Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and Pamela Fryman (HIMYM).
I don't think Seth MacFarlane deserves to be on there at all, and while Josh Schwartz is good, I don't know if he should be there either. The others definitely deserve their places.

I'd also like to add Ronald D. Moore, Ricky Gervais, Aaron Sorkin and maybe Mitchell Hurwitz (I say maybe because he's only really made the one show so far, despite the other soon to air).
Ron Moore has to be on there for me, simple as that, he's been involved with so many good or great shows over the last 10-ish years that he deserves his place more than some on the list IMO. Aaron Sorkin maybe ? Rob Thomas wouldn't be totally left field either. Ricky Gervais is a pretty good call I reckon, especially when we're talking about inventiveness.

Re: women, the sad fact is, regarding actual show-runners or even big name exec producers/writers it's difficult to come up with 5 and I suspect that's not because women are all rubbish writers and can't throw a ball or climb good ;).

Tina Fey = shoe-in, funny and smart, writes, acts, the works. Personally I think Katie Jacobs of 'House' does a great job too. Jane Esp, totally (though I admit, I haven't been blown away with her stuff on BSG). Mere Smith did good work on 'Burn Notice' (not sure if she's still on it but she wrote one of my favourite eps from season 1) and 'Rome'. Maybe Betsy Thomas, creator of 'My Boys'. Don't think i've seen more than 5 minutes of 'Gilmore Girls' so can't comment on that one. Fain and Craft, yep. Err ...
Personally, I would also exclude Abrams from the list. Really, I just agree with Joss and Bryan. Though, I do kinda like Schwartz and MacFarlane.
I definitely agree with Abrams being on this list. The pilots alone for LOST and ALIAS are IMO the best television has to offer. My only problem with Abrams is that he creates these shows and then completely drops them. It seems odd to me that he doesn't want to finish telling the stories he helped start. ALIAS suffered greatly in seasons 3-5 without his influence, but luckily LOST has been able to stay afloat due to Damon and Carlton's shared genius.
Yeah, it's hard for me to really understand Abrams's method. I can't imagine dropping something I'd created, at least not that quickly.

That said, Joss, Bryan Fuller, and he all deserve to be on here. Sorkin deserves a spot, though the list did seem to focus on those who currently--or shortly will--have a show on the air, which would exclude him. Come back to TV, AS :(
Mitchell Hurwitz could be a future addition depending on how the new show goes. Arrested Development was brilliant. there are so many people who had brilliant first shows and then didn't follow them up with anything of note. I think of Chris Carter and JM Straczinski (still has promise). And not in league with this list, but a guilty pleasure of mine from the past is Donald P. Bellisario.
I would replace MacFarlane with Trey Parker.
On the distaff side, Reaper started a little slow, but I think the latter half of its first season shows that Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas could develop into great TV minds.
Come back to TV, AS :(

Yeah, and bring your A game this time, not what we saw the last time out. Ron D. Moore so belongs on the list.
Sorkin, Milch, Simon, Fontana.
On the women front, I'm going to go retro and give a shout to Juanita Bartlett who was the driving force behind the Rockford Files, one of the smartest TV shows of the seventies (and one of my all-time faves). IMDB says she has been out of the biz for a number of years, but I don't care.
Wow, 'The Rockford Files' was great TV and she also wrote for 'Greatest American Hero' and 'Alias Smith and Jones' (and I must admit, 'Scarecrow and Mrs King' was good clean fun too - had a bit of a thing for Kate Jackson back in the day ;). Hadn't heard of her before now but Ms Bartlett, I salute you, good work.

And DC Fontana is a great call too.
It made me so happy that Bryan Fuller is on that list. Josh Swhwartz, not so much.
Abrams didn't create Lost, he only picked up the concept and helped bring it to TV with D&L. He's helped start a lot of shows and movies in that way.
Yeah Abrams was so lucky with Lost. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've tripped, fell and when I've come too, I've created and directed the pilot for one of the most celebrated and culturally influential shows of the last decade. I am so clumsy.

Archon - there was a pilot knocking around about an island, and a plane crash. That's it. Abrams and Lindelof basically created the show you've seen. The fella that came up with that first "island/plane" thing hasn't so much as visited the set.

It's true that Abrams set it up and then left it to Lindelof, but don't cheapen the fact that it's a blinding first season he worked out and the character paradigms are all his and Lindelofs.
I agree completely that Trey Parker > Seth MacFarlaine. South Park (and Parker himself) is often ludicrously immature, but it's still bright and a unique voice on the TV landscape; for the most part of what I've seen, Family Guy is reheated and somewhat dumbed The Simpsons. Often funny, rarely memorable.

I like Fuller well enough I guess, although I haven't really seen quite enough of his stuff (and some of his episodes on Voyager weren't exactly brilliant, although some of that may be regular interference from the highers-up), but substantially less than some of the other names mentioned (Moore, Rob Thomas before I saw VM's third season, Minear, Hurwitz, etc.), but Abrams is fairly overrated; he's not bad, certainly, and he did do a decent job with the LOST pilot, but besides creating interesting premises I don't see all that much noteworthy about him. I haven't watched "Chuck" (yet) so I can't comment.

Also: is this just American, or could the Ricky Gervais/Steve Merchant team get some cred? (Or Steve Moffat.) In fact, speaking of "The Office," Greg Daniels is pretty damned impressive these days with the American version, no?

But yeah, Whedon obviously. It's good to see him on this list, since MacFarlaine and Abrams tend to get more publicity anyway.
And re: women: as far as recent TV work, Marti Noxon brought so much to Buffy and is still terminally underrated (and whatever ill will I have for "Wrecked" is more than made up for "IOHEFY," "The Wish," "New Moon Rising," "Forever," "Villains"....); Jane Espenson is my favourite "lieutenant to genius" writing; Pam Brady, through what she brought to Trey Parker's style, is probably one of the forces most responsible for "South Park" becoming a cultural phenomenon rather than a brief vulgar curiosity; Anne Cofell Saunders on BSG has turned in great work (including the Pegasus introduction); Diane Ruggerio wrote many of the best episodes of Veronica Mars and seemed to have some of the best grasp of the characters; Mere Smith turned in solid, exciting work for Angel; Mindy Kahling's scripts for The Office have maybe the highest laugh rate of anyone's, which is saying something. I like the work of other Buffyverse writers such as RRK and Craft & Fain, but haven't been blown away overall by them (yet), although there are certain episodes, like "Tabula Rasa" or "Underneath," that speak highly of them. (I'm looking forward to see what C&F do for "Dollhouse.")

D.C. Fontana is also a good choice, for classic era; I am not really that familiar with "The Rockford Files" and the like.
WilliamTheB, while I totally agree with you on Steven Moffett, and think Coupling the funniest and cleverest comedy I've seen, I disagree about Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy. FG is laugh out loud comedy for me and I've given up on The Simpsons.

And my pick to most talented and inventive woman? Sadly Verity Lambert is no longer with us but anyone whose career includes Doctor Who, Adam Adamant, Budgie, Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Quatermass, Widows, Minder, Jonathan Creek and many more should not be forgotten.
Well, zz9, Family Guy is better than The Simpsons is now, but can't hold a candle to classic era. Anyway I think I'm a bit hard on FG, but I see it as mildly funny but nothing much more; obviously many others disagree :P
Andy Dufresne, I'm not saying that Abrams is untalented, as obviously the Lost pilot is a brilliant piece of television, and the season where he was truly involved still ranks as the best. But it's the only thing he's done that's worth watching, and I don't think he's capable of sustaining creative genius like that, which is why I'm happy he's barely involved anymore.
Unplugged Crazy, the seasons of Alias he was involved with were searingly good. Mission Impossible 3 is a solid piece of work, and considering its the most expensive debut picture for a film maker ever, he did a pretty good job. Star Trek will be great.

And given that Lost hasn't managed to re-capture the brilliance of that first season (though I like it a lot still) maybe we need to be less snippy about his contribution. He has made a huge impact on the TV landscape, creating and running three very good shows, very different shows, and his fourth debuts this fall. His presence on the list is a foregone conclusion.
I'd leave JJ Abrams on the list, just for the first two seasons of Alias.
Otherwise (except for Joss of course), I think it's a pretty awful list. Leaving off Ron Moore and Brad Grey .... just, WTF???
I'd also substitute Sorkin, & of course Jane E. for anyone else mentioned.
That said .... yay Joss!!
I'd be more impressed with the article if the writer did their homework. Too many factual errors.
I didn't like Alias at all, although Lost has some terrific moments, so I'd sub in David Milch (for his work on Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, not to mention Deadwood) for Abrams. No conclusions are too foregone for me . . .
His presence on the list is still definitely not a foregone conclusion for me. I did not like Alias (I struggled through the first eight episodes and then just had to drop it), Mission: Impossible III was definitely the best of that film series but still terrible, and the Fringe pilot was awful. I haven't seen much of Felicity, but I'd like to give it a shot, and I'm not particularly interested in the Star Trek movie even if it does have Simon Pegg as Scotty.

And like SoddingNancyTribe has reminded me, when there are folks like David Milch out there, it's hard to see why Abrams deserves a spot on the list. I mean, that's like saying that Aaron Spelling was a genius just because of the sheer volume of crappy shows he made.

(Oh, but I did love Cloverfield, though I think that the work of director Matt Reeves, not to mention Drew Goddard, get overshadowed just because Abrams is involved. I have nothing against the man, as he seems like a nice fella, I just think he's terribly overrated.)
Comparing Abrams to Aaron Spelling is really not fair.

As for Cloverfield, you like that, but you don't want to ruin your theory so you absolve any credit from Abrams? Even though his involvement in that is pretty frickin' big. You can call him overrated, that's a fair opinion, but don't assign credit and blame without knowing the true contributions of those involved.
Ron Moore, Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggerio, Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon, Tim Minear, Aaron Sorkin (I liked Studio 60 - think it needed a little more time & guidance to find itself, but West Wing is enough reason for me - I'm about to suck it up and buy it all 'cause I miss seeing its inneresting face in re-runs, those bastards), Pam Brady, Tina Fey, Trey Parker, Mindy Kahling, David Milch. I think that more women showrunners will be added to lists like these when we have more women showrunners - maybe when they learn how to climb and throw balls better, huh? ; > I look forward to seeing what Liz Craft & Sarah Fain do with Dollhouse.

The article? Well, research is so easy to do these days, I'd have recommended a little more work before publishing.

Seth McFarlane is totally a guilty pleasure for me, but I never would've put him on this list until I saw him in concert with Alex Borstein - the man is a freakin' sweet performance geeenyus, and so quick on his feet, I mean stool. Plus, watch him give his 2006 Harvard Class Day speech. It's crapalicious in the good way.

Finally, though I don't think any of the folks on the list are near as godawful as the late Aaron Spelling, I just think it's fun to repeat this Joss-quote whenever the opportunity presents itself:

"I hate camp. I don't enjoy dumb TV. I believe Aaron Spelling has single-handedly lowered SAT scores." - Joss, in Emily Nussbaumís Must-See Metaphysics, NYTimes, 09/22/02
Telling you, a deep pass to a wide receiver or a decent googly (g'head, Google googly ;) is the single best way to break the glass ceiling ;-).

(well, it seemed like a good reason to exclude girls when you're ten anyway)
Us'n Yank Britophiles already know googly from Lord Peter Wimsey and suchlike. (And btw, the only disappointment of my first trip to London was finding out that the address 110A Piccadilly doesn't really exist.)

Hee - when I was a girl, me Pop taught me to throw overhand and climb trees so I could "keep up with the boys" - for which I am eternally grateful. I can still wing a hardball pretty high and hard.
Good for him. It's just a matter of practice of course, like writing with your "wrong" hand (exactly like it in fact, I can't throw with my left for toffee).

And I thought you might have heard of it BTW but I was never gonna pass up a chance to say "Google googly", they don't come along everyday you know ;).
Oh, I definitely heard that, Saje-whom-I-can't-help-but-picture-as-Sahjahn-despite-it-being-exceedingly-unlikely-that-he-looks-like-him - it felt bridge-y to me & who could in all conscience pass up that opportunity?

Yeah, me Pop was something special that way - he had three girls, whom he never treated as "less than" the son he didn't have. It was truly the luck of the draw for us.

And regarding English English/American English in general - sometimes I agree with Oscard Wilde, who wrote, "The English and Americans are two peoples separated by a common language."

We just have to try and keep bridging the gap created by that common language.

; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; > ; >
"I'd like to teach the world to emoticon in perfect harmony ..."

(I don't know the HTML for the little sing-a-long dot so you'll have to imagine it i'm afraid)

Forget Esperanto, smileys are the new universal language. After football, obviously.
How about them Red Sox?
I didn't absolve any credit from Abrams for Cloverfield, I just feel that the work of the actual director and writer have been unfairly overshadowed. In fact, I would've liked to have seen another producer handle it, because while I did love the finished product and give Abrams props for it, Drew's script was apparently a hard R-rated horror movie before Abrams (perhaps because of the studio) whittled it down to a still quite effective PG-13. Being something of a horror fan, though, I really want to see the undiluted version.

Yeah, the Aaron Spelling comparison was probably unfair. Abrams seems like a smart man. But apart from Lost and Cloverfield, I just don't like what he does. Lost was/is lightning in a bottle: All of the right people converging together at the right time. Lord knows Abrams' not the first man in showbiz who hasn't been able to achieve the same before or since. Everything else he does just seems like a story in service to a gimmick. I didn't actually watch Lost at first because I expected it to be the same, and was delighted to see that for once, the gimmick is in service to the story.

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2008-08-31 15:35 ]

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