Created on Friday, 17 August 2012 15:56
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 June 2013 22:44
Written by Alice Jester
fans have always been outspoken. There’s no denying that, and a lot of that outspokenness has gained this fandom a lot of attention. When it comes to expectation, no fandom is harder to please (that statement clearly subject to my biased opinion of course). That high expectation puts new showrunner Jeremy Carver in a very pressure filled position for this upcoming season 8. Or does it? Better yet, should
I just read an article from Cory Barker at TV.com
(thanks to Candy Maize for the link) in which Barker gives a great commentary on whether there should be more separation between shows and their showrunners. The entire debate came to be because the explosive behavior of producer Aaron Sorkin has ended up defining his show, “Newsroom.” The issue raises the question, at what point did fans and critics adopt the belief that just one person was responsible for creating and driving a show’s vision?
The talking points in this article are fascinating, and I'm labeling it as a must read. Barker goes on to talk about the increase visibility of the “showrunner,” a term that ten years ago meant nothing. Thanks to Twitter and the fact that any fan now can have easy access to a showrunner, writer, producer, or actor on a TV show, fans are becoming more engaged in TV shows. There are more critics out there writing reviews, there is a lot more vibrant discussion about TV, and television viewers are interacting with those that make these shows. This increased engagement has had both positive and negative effects. The positive is that TV is now more buzzworthy than ever, and the viewer enthusiasm never more widespread. TV is actually gaining legitimacy as an art form, something it never had years ago.
This increased visibility of the showrunner though has led to the notion that anything that happens on a TV show is the sole responsibility of the showrunner, and that person is held accountable by fans and media alike. The article raises the possibility that at least in Aaron Sorkin’s case, this belief is unfair, since Newsroom
is ending up with all of Aaron Sorkin’s baggage that has been clinging to him for years from his other shows. In the case of Dan Harmon, recently ousted showrunner for the NBC comedy Community
, the outrage over his loss may end up hurting that program, even though all the writers, cast, and crew remain.
That’s where a sticking point comes up. A TV show is made by hundreds of people, not just one. Barker explains it this way: “Certain singular voices might write the final scripts, have full control over a production and might make the final decision at all the important levels, but lots of people helped them along the way.” He goes on to say “Perhaps more importantly, it’s troublesome to presume that everything we see on-screen is the product of a showrunner’s psyche, personal life, or family tree.”
What Does This Have To Do With Supernatural?
In his closing paragraph, Barker makes a statement near and dear to our hearts. “Today, the departure of Dan Harmon brings Community
to its knees, while the appointment of a Jeremy Carver is cause for celebration in the Supernatural
And there’s our discussion topic. How much as a fan do you have riding on Jeremy Carver in season 8? If you’re celebrating, what exactly is your expectation? How will Carver succeed where Sera Gamble supposedly failed? Will he be hailed the conquering hero or will he end up only pleasing part of the base and coming under the ire of others? Considering the latter is exactly what happened to past Supernatural
showrunners Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble, what is Carver’s best case scenario?
In looking forward to season 8, Jeremy Carver confirmed in my interview with him at Comic-Con that the entire writing team from season 7 will be back. The only change is he is taking the place of Sera Gamble. The Directors and Producers are the same for the most part as well, although we didn’t have a lot of complaints about production last season (other than the editing). Is it fair to assume that by coming in, Jeremy Carver is going to change absolutely everything? That he’s going to somehow meet every differing and lofty “Supernatural” fan expectation? What will be his true measure of success?
Eric Kripke’s time as showrunner for five seasons was a very volatile one. He took both all the praise and all of the heat from many Supernatural
fans for everything that happened on the show. Every single decision, from a sweeping religious themed mytharc, to killing off popular characters, to letting the amulet get tossed in the trash and never heard from again, was scrutinized. When some fans weren’t happy with Sam’s arc in season four, they unleashed their wrath on Mr. Kripke (and still do). The same happened for fans at the end of season five who weren’t happy with Dean’s ending role in the whole apocalypse. Kripke was praised when fans were happy, and his name was burned in effigy when they weren’t. Some still harbor resentment over creative choices made under his regime and don’t exactly show excitement about his new project, “Revolution,” for that very reason. This type of stigma certainly didn’t affect showrunners back in the early 80’s.
Sera Gamble took over in season six, putting herself in that line of fire even though she was only the co-showrunner. It was perceived she was in charge of the vision, so anything that went wrong became her responsibility. “Supernatural” in season six went into what they were calling a reboot, Supernatural: The Sequel
of sorts. Even though they tried to paint the expectation that things would be different, a lot of fans just weren’t ready for that. The fandom liked the original tone, the structure the way it was, even though a group of angry fans just gave Kripke the “don’t let the door hit you…” type farewell after season five. Sera Gamble in their eyes was going to set things right.
Come the middle of season seven, the writing was on the wall. Whatever this new “Supernatural” was, it wasn’t resonating with many long time fans. I can only speak for myself, but come the middle of season seven, “Supernatural” wasn’t appointment television for me anymore. I tried not to lay blame on Sera Gamble, often using the term in my criticism “the writers.” But still, I couldn’t help but think that somehow she had lost control, either that or her vision really was no vision and she believed this show could live creatively on standalones. To this day we don’t know what really happened and it still seems unfair at least in my mind to throw that blame onto Sera, especially when some fans were happy with those seasons. But in the end she’s the one that left, and any successes that Jeremy Carver achieves at this point will look like her failures. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is in this landscape today of avid television fans.
I’m just as guilty, if not more so, to giving praise to a showrunner where it likely wasn’t due and throwing criticism toward that person who probably didn’t deserve it. I’ve also been very guilty of going with that mindset that one single person, aka the showrunner, is responsible for everything that happens on the show. This article if anything has made me more aware of this when constructing a review in the future. After all, writers break arcs and pitch ideas via committee. It’s not one person calling the shots. The showrunner has really become the scapegoat in a way, the one visible person for fans to throw all their displeasure at when the show doesn’t go as expected. Think about it, there’s no greater scapegoat in the history of all of TV than “Lost’s” Damon Lindelof, and his Twitter access mixed with a passionate fan base has a lot to do with that. Notice how none of the “Supernatural” showrunners are or have been on Twitter? (Sera Gamble’s inactive account doesn’t count). I wouldn’t do it if I were them. At the same time though, the showrunner can be elevated to God like status. For that see Whedon, Joss.
So, what do you think? Is Jeremy Carver doomed to the same fates as Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble? Is this kind of pressure and expectations on a single showrunner good or bad for “Supernatural?” Do you think that a showrunner should be the one to take the heat for all the decisions that are made, even though as early as ten years ago that wasn’t the case? Finally, what sort of hopes are you pinning on Jeremy Carver? Are the expectations out there too lofty?
I need to remind that in your comments, keep it respectful to other posters. Otherwise, it’s an open forum. EVERYONE’s opinions are valued. Do not mock others for their opinions. There is no right or wrong here. Having said that, let the debate begin!