The Student Becomes The Showrunner: A 3-Episode History of Television Talent
Episode 1: Getting Weird
What we have here is a quick series on a few legendary television creators with the theme being the misunderstood notion of the overnight celebrity. Think Vince Gilligan. There was probably a phase some five years ago where you not only saw his name on TV every day, but rather over, and over, and over, every 48 minutes while you heard this sound.
But like Bryan Cranston, Gilligan didn’t explode onto the scene so much as he whittled kindling for years in the industry leading up to this classic work. Another place you’ll catch his credit is on 44 episodes of The X-Files. Notably, among them are some of the most humorous of the show’s epic run. While broadcast network FOX surely appreciated the pure comedic relief, the way laughs would later be deployed in Breaking Bad was critical to its addictive, postmodernist charm.
And of course there’s something to be said for an eye for talent when it comes to showrunners, who wear far more hats than film directors. You might recognize these X-File one-off guest characters.
Mental notes were made on set these days.
Episode 2: Boys Will Be Boys
The Sopranos character saga which Matthew Weiner, future creator of Mad Men, had a significant writing hand in, was that of Tony B. AKA Tony’s cousin Steve Buscemi. He is released from prison in the first episode of the fifth season, tries to play it clean, eventually falls back into crime, and ends up meeting one of criminal life’s two inevitable ends (the other one this time — violent death).
Simultaneously in this era of the show Tony is going through a load of lady trouble and the two of these Tony tales together conjure up the exact sort of meditation on personal inevitability and cyclical personality we experienced for years with Don Draper. The way Tony S. and Don eventually do progress, and the fact that the famous lakehouse episode of The Sopranos is another with Weiner’s signature, clue us in that there’s often something in the past to explain bad habits but also hope for true change in the future.
Episode 3: To Sit In (Judge)ment
While this article’s Gilligan worked under Chris Carter and Matthew Weiner under David Chase, early-days Mike Judge seems to have been more influenced by his superiors who weren’t so stellar.
As creator of wildly different Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, and today’s Silicon Valley, Judge’s 25-year-and-counting career is a finishing move example of the lessons you’ve just scrollingly learned. First, it’s demonstrated that talent, even genius if you are a TV romantic, do prevail. Second, television, and television artists, work best in the broadest of strokes. Judge was once an animation man, sure; but he has always been a skeptic of the definition of intelligence.
More loose connections but tight content at PrettyCoolJoe.com