5 Things We Learned From TV Guide Magazine’s Fan Favorite Showrunners WonderCon Panel

Wondercon Group-1428258650
Geraldine Agoncillo

They’re the creative minds behind some of today’s funniest, scariest and most twisted shows on television. On Saturday, TV Guide Magazine welcomed some of the medium’s most prolific producers for their annual Fan Favorites Showrunners panel at Anaheim’s WonderCon convention. Brannon Braga (Salem), Kerry Ehrin (Bates Motel), Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs), Dan Harmon (Community), Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls), Peter Horton (American Odyssey) and Graeme Manson (Orphan Black) shared behind the scenes tidbits from their hit series and gave insight on what it takes to be a showrunner in today’s television landscape. “This panel looks like your DVR,” noted TV Guide Magazine Executive Editor and moderator Michael Schneider. Here are five things we learned from the session.

1. Showrunners make sacrifices.
Running a TV show is not all Hollywood glitz and glamor. It often requires long nights at work, which for Hirsch, sometimes evolves into nights sleeping on his office couch. “You’re sort of like the President and the janitor,” Hirsch said. “You are in charge of everything and you can choose how much you delegate, but for everything that doesn’t get done, it’s still your name on the show.”

2. Pushing the limit is always the goal.
Braga praised his basic cable home for Salem, WGN, since the executives have always encouraged him to take risks and test the boundaries of traditional standards and practices. “They wanted to make a lot of noise and be noticed,” said Braga, who teased a scene involving “castration and a bird” in the Season 2 premiere. Networks also tend to give more notes in sexual situations, according to Manson. “It has to be sexual to be surprising and taboo,” he said.

3. Social media has changed showrunning.
Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, today’s showrunners are more accessible than ever before, which sometimes comes as a blessing and a curse when you have fans voicing their opinions. “You’re the face of every mistake,” Hirsch said. “The more visible you are, the more crazy people are mad at you.” Goldberg added that he oftentimes feels like his show’s writers are in a bubble when crafting the season, so he embraces social media because, “I can find out what people like and know what people are responding to.”

4. Community now has a “bazillion” viewers on Yahoo.
When asked about the status of Community‘s move from NBC to Yahoo Screen for its sixth season, Harmon voiced his relief of not having to rely on the traditional Nielsen ratings system, even though “there’s no public record of your success.” While he wouldn’t disclose the exact number of viewers the comedy now draws on the streaming platform, he estimated it at “a bazillion. As many people as I thought were watching my show are watching my show on Yahoo. It’s the hardest season we’ve ever worked on, but it’s turned out to be the best.”

5. Big breaks take luck.
After an audience member and aspiring television writer asked for advice on breaking into the industry, the panelists all agreed on two major factors: luck and persistence. “Talent gets you so far, but there are certain points in your career where you’re in the right place at the right time and it starts falling together,” Ehrin said. Manson also noted it’s important to pick the right people as your creative partners. “You’ve got to pick people who are as persistent as you are,” he said. “They don’t have to be your best friends, but they just have to see the same thing.”