5 Influential Producers Who Are Power Mainstays on TV (PHOTOS)

Rob Moynihan
Power Mainstays - Oprah, Chuck Lorre, Dick Wolf, Mark Burnett

For TV Guide Magazine's first-ever Power Issue, the staff looked at the juggernauts dominating TV, from events to franchises to actors, producers, and other multihyphenates in show business. Here, we take a look at TV's latest Power Mainstays.


They are some of the most influential, creative minds in TV, and they show no signs of stopping. A handful of producers have changed the game when it comes to today’s hit programming, from the rebirth of the multicamera sitcom (Chuck Lorre) to the establishment of reality competition franchises (Mark Burnett) and the endurance of late night (Lorne Michaels). And their influence is only growing, with new projects that are replicating—and in some cases even overshadowing—their earlier successes.

“I love going to work,” Lorre says. “I love the writing, the rewriting and the shoot nights. Maybe the love of doing it is translating onto the screen.”

Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels

Main: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images. Inset: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures Studios

Lorne Michaels

First gig: The Canadian comedy producer moved south of the border to write for Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show before cocreating a weekly late-night sketch-comedy show for NBC.
Big break: In 1975, said sketch show, Saturday Night Live, premiered with 30-year-old Michaels at the helm. Over 41 years, SNL has grown into a pop-cultural touchstone and a proven breeding ground for up-and-coming comedians.
Continuing legacy: Along with collecting producer credits on comedies like 30 Rock and Portlandia, Michaels continues to expand his late-night empire as the executive producer of NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Survivor, Mark Burnett

Main: Monty Brinton/CBS. Inset: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Mark Burnett

First gig: In 1992, the U.K. native launched  the adventure series Eco-Challenge, which ran on USA for nine seasons.
Big break: Burnett outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the competition when he brought Survivor to CBS in 2000, where it revolutionized the modern reality competition genre. He then entered the boardroom with the Donald Trump–hosted The Apprentice in 2004, which evolved into The Celebrity Apprentice in 2008.
Continuing legacy: While he keeps churning out reality hits (The Voice, Shark Tank), Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, have found success with scripted Christian programming. History’s The Bible premiered to 13.1 million viewers in 2013; the sequel, A.D.: The Bible Continues, followed on NBC last spring.

Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman

TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey

First gig: The Queen of All Media began her ascension as a local news anchor before cohosting the Baltimore talk show People Are Talking in 1978.
Big break: The syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show debuted in 1986 and quickly catapulted its host to superstardom thanks to her buzzworthy celebrity interviews and generous audience giveaways.
Continuing legacy: After the conclusion of her daytime series in 2011, Winfrey turned her attention to the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and partnered with producer Tyler Perry, whose series The Haves and Have Nots continues to be the channel’s most successful program to date.

Main: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Inset: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Chuck Lorre

First gig: The former musician and songwriter cut his sitcom teeth as a writer on Roseanne before creating Grace Under Fire in 1993 and Cybill in 1995.
Big break: After the five-season run of Dharma & Greg, Lorre struck ratings gold with CBS’s Two and a Half Men in 2003, which eventually became TV’s No. 1 comedy series.
Continuing legacy: Lorre’s Two and a Half Men follow-up, The Big Bang Theory, is averaging 15.7 million viewers per week in its ninth season. Over the past five years, Lorre also added CBS’s Mike & Molly and Mom to his résumé.

Chicago Med

Main: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC. Inset: Randy Brooke/WireImage.

Dick Wolf

First gig: An aspiring screenwriter, Wolf started his TV career with the classic cop drama Hill Street Blues in 1985 and served as a producer on Miami Vice.
Big break: New York City cops and lawyers collided in 1990 with the premiere of Law & Order, which aired for 20 seasons. The success of the NBC procedural spawned spinoffs Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent, Trial by Jury and Los Angeles.
Continuing legacy: In 2012, Wolf found a new muse in the Windy City and NBC’s Chicago Fire, which has since grown into a franchise of its own with 2014’s Chicago P.D. and the brand-new Chicago Med. He’s also entered the reality genre with TNT’s Cold Justice and Cold Justice: Sex Crimes.

Plus: Learn More About Cold Justice: Sex Crimes

< >