Five Things We Learned from TV Guide Magazine's Showrunners Panel at WonderCon
Michael Schneider, Damon Lindelof, Scott M. Gimple, Paul Scheer, Melissa Rosenberg, Ali Adler & Craig DiGregorio
When do you kill off a beloved TV character? Why are there so many post-apocalyptic TV shows? Are we in a golden age of kick-ass female TV superheroes?
The showrunners know. For the fourth year, WonderCon (think Comic-Con's more chill cousin) hosted TV Guide Magazine's Fan Favorites Showrunners panel, a salute to the folks who bring us our favorite programs. And this year, the lineup did not disappoint.
Moderated by TV Guide Magazine’s inimitable chief content officer Michael Schneider, the dais included Ali Adler (Supergirl), Craig DiGregorio (Ash vs. Evil Dead), Scott M. Gimple (The Walking Dead), Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers), Melissa Rosenberg (Marvel’s Jessica Jones) and comedian Paul Scheer (Party Over Here). For an hour, these power players exchanged anecdotes, discussed fandoms and shared their takes on everything from blood budgets to how all of their shows could crossover with each other.
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Here's a quintet of our favorite takeaways.
Being a Showrunner Is Not for the Faint of Heart
"You are the person who is the net...the person there to catch" a show if it falls, said Lindelof, adding that overseeing a series like The Leftovers is "roughly an 80- to 90-hour a week job."
His co-panelists all agreed that it's an overwhelming gig, with Scheer pointing out that much of the time can be taken up with "the most minute boring stuff" like deciding on the right shade of gray for a background. Adler joked that budget matters vexed her most: "I was told there'd be no math!"
Killing Characters Comes with the Territory
With easily the most on-screen casualties amongst the panelists, Gimple vowed that making viewers think Glenn (Steven Yeun) had died last fall wasn't meant to screw with loyal fans.
"We aren't messing around with that...we want [them] to go through what the characters do. To fear, to hope and then be rewarded for that [hope,]" he said.
Ironically, Lindelof—who led viewers to think Justin Theroux's Kevin had died twice on The Leftovers—confessed to "cursing Gimple's name" backstage at Talking Dead when he guested on the talk show episode that followed Glenn's controversial cliffhanger. Still, he gave the twist a thumbs up for originality. "We're all trying to do the same thing, which is not to do the same thing," Lindelof said.
Pretty Little Liars Is In For It
Now that he's done with The League and Hulu has yet to get their act together regarding the possible third season of his Hotwives franchise, Scheer has been busying himself with a new project that sounds like an A-plus: A Pretty Little Liars spoof starring Max Carver (Teen Wolf) and Malese Jow (The Flash) about horrible high-school rich kids.
"It's called Filthy Preppy Teen$," Scheer revealed to the crowd. "It was called Filthy Sexy Teens.. but if you Google that, our show wouldn't be what comes up."
It's a Great Time for Female Characters
Rosenberg credited the "incredible, dark anti-heroes" like Tony Soprano, Dexter's Dexter Morgan and The Shield's Vic Mackey—"all white guys"—with paving the way for the rise of TV's kickass women.
"Jessica Jones doesn't exist without them," she said. "It's great for all these incredibly talented actresses to play something other than the noble wife or sassy cop."
She also agreed with Adler that both of their shows are about hope, with Rosenberg defining Jones as a survivor and Adler touting "Supergirl for President!" after noting that Melissa Benoist's Kara wears red and blue. (Kara, of course, wasn't born in the United States–or Earth, for that matter, which a few truthers in the audience were quick to point out.)
Scheer said he was "thrilled" that his new show Party Over Here is headlined by three female comics (Nicole Byer, Jessica McKenna and Alison Rich), and DiGregorio revealed that Lucy Lawless' role as Ruby will be bigger than ever on Ash Vs. Evil Dead's second season, despite her truce with Bruce Campbell's "charismatic asshole" at the end of Season 1.
"The Ruby-Ash truce lasts four minutes into the season premiere," he said.
It's a Bad Time for Politics
Gimple's take on the popularity of shows that traffic in dark matters like zombie apocalypses, alien threats, rampaging demons and near-Biblical raptures? They're escapes from the real ugliness of life.
"It captures peoples imaginations [when you] peel away the artifices...when society drifts away, you don't have to focus on [things like] Twitter or politics," he offered, laughing.
That said, he won our vote for Best Answer when Schneider polled the panelists on which of their shows could possibly crossover. "All of them," declared the obvious comic-book fan. "Started by a Crisis on Infinite Earths on Supergirl."