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A showrunner, running the show.note 
Showrunner is the unofficial title for an executive producer who oversees the creative content of the show in addition to the financial aspects. They give the show its overall tone and direction, making all the final creative decisions about what the identity of the series is. Theoretically, the buck stops here. But in practice, the showrunner is beholden to people higher-up in the studio chain of command, and can be overruled by any combination of the studio producing the shownote , the network or service on which the show will be broadcast, and even the advertisers and sponsors.

The initial showrunner is usually the same person credited as the creator or, if it's a new entry in a Long Runner franchise, series developer. If the showrunner is a big enough name that they have their own associated production company, then that will appear as a Vanity Plate in the Closing Credits, usually right before the studio's own credit.

For any number of reasons, from the studio/network forcibly removing them from the project, being overwhelmed by the stress of production, or just wanting to take a break or pursue other ideas, the original showrunner may leave and be replaced by a new one. The new showrunner is usually advancing from the role of head writer, and this changing of the guard can often be a Jump the Shark or Growing the Beard moment if their vision for the show differs from that of their predecessor. Creators or showrunners who step down into smaller roles on the production (or even leave the production all together) may continue to be credited as an executive producer for the remainder of the show's run regardless, although sometimes they will be "demoted" to consulting producer or creative consultant. Initial creator-showrunners have occasionally been known to come Back for the Finale, or even (given enough lead time) the entire final season.

Not to be confused with someone like a go-fer, who helps keep the show running by getting miscellaneous items like coffee or snacks for the higher ranking staff. Also see In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It for plenty of examples where the person who most visibly has their name attached to the project, is not the showrunner.


Showrunnners Who Took Over Existing Shows

  • Doctor Who:
    • Verity Lambert: Seasons 1-3 ("An Unearthly Child" - "Mission to the Unknown")
    • John Wiles: Season 3 ("The Myth Makers" - "The Ark")
    • Innes Lloyd: Seasons 3-5 ("The Celestial Toymaker" - "The Enemy of the World", excepting "Tomb of the Cybermen")
    • Peter Bryant: Seasons 5-7 (solo showrunner for "Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The Web of Fear" - "The Mind Robber", co-showrunner with Sherwin for the remainder of season 6 and early season 7)
    • Derrick Sherwin: Seasons 6-7 (co-showrunner with Bryant from "The Invasion" to early season 7; departed early during the production of "The Silurians")
    • Barry Letts: Seasons 7-12 (finished work on "The Silurians" and "The Ambassadors of Death", full showrunner for "Inferno" - "Robot")
    • Philip Hinchcliffe: Seasons 12-14
    • Graham Williams: Seasons 15-17
    • John Nathan-Turner: Seasons 18-26
    • Philip Segal: TV Movie
    • Russell T Davies: Series 1-4 + 2009 Specials; 2023 Specials + Series 14-
    • Steven Moffat: Series 5-10
    • Chris Chibnall: Series 11-13 + 2022 Specials
  • The Simpsons:
    • Sam Simon: Seasons 1 & 2 (moved to a supervising role in seasons 3 & 4, and ended his involvement with the series after that).
    • Al Jean & Mike Reiss: Seasons 3 & 4 (although "A Star is Burns" and "'Round Springfield", produced alongside season 6, and "The Springfield Files", "Lisa's Sax", "Simpsioncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" and "Simpson Tide", produced alongside season 7, were outsourced to them)
    • David Mirkin: Seasons 5 & 6 (alongside "Lisa the Vegetarian" and "Team Homer" for season 7 and "Joy of Sect" and "All Singing, All Dancing" for season 9)
    • Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein: Seasons 7 & 8.
    • Mike Scully: Seasons 9 through 12 (alongside "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation", produced for season 13 and aired in season 14)
    • Al Jean: Season 13 to present.
    • Matt Selman: Starting in Season 23, a handful of episodes per season are run by him. You can recognize them by the fact that Selman's name is the first to appear in the end credits. From Season 33, he has been promoted to full-time co-showrunner alongside Al Jean.
  • Family Guy:
    • Chris Sheridan & David A Goodman: Seasons 4ACX-6ACX Production Cycle
    • Mark Hentemann & Steve Callaghan: Seasons 7ACX-AACX
    • Steve Callaghan & Richard Appel: Seasons BACX-EACX
    • Richard Appel & Alec Sulkin: Season FACX-present
  • American Dad!: After Mike Barker left, Brian Boyle replaced him as showrunner while co-creator Matt Weitzman still remains executive producing.
  • Gene L. Coon assumed the role of showrunner from Gene Roddenberry after the initial batch of episodes from the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series, starting with "Miri", and he continued in this role until halfway through season 2 ("Bread and Circuses" was his last episode as Producer). He actively produced nearly half of the show's 79 episodes, more than anyone else. He was replaced for the rest of the second season by writer/director John Meredyth Lucas, who left only because Gene Roddenberry was supposed to come back the following season, though he ultimately did not. Notably, both Coon - under the pseudonym "Lee Cronin" - and Lucas continued to write (and in the latter's case, direct) for the show even after having stepped down as showrunner. Journeyman producer Fred Freiberger became showrunner for the third season (often referred to as the turd season), and became the scapegoat for all its problems.
  • Though Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek: The Next Generation, he was only actually the showrunner for the first 16 episodes of the first season, after which he kicked himself upstairs and delegated the running of the show to others until his death in 1991:
    • Seasons 1-2: Maurice Hurley
    • Season 3 (first four episodes): Michael Wagner
    • Seasons 3-6: Michael Piller, who left to assume showrunning duties on a show he co-created, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Season 7: Jeri Taylor
  • Ira Steven Behr took over Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from Season 3 onwards, leading to much facial hair growth.
  • Brannon Braga became the showrunner of Star Trek: Voyager for seasons 5-6, departing in season 7 to develop Star Trek: Enterprise. Like Freiberger before him, he became a major scapegoat, and is often blamed for all of the problems with the show's creative direction throughout its entire run.
  • Kenneth Biller became the final showrunner for Star Trek: Voyager in season 7.
  • Manny Coto took over primary showrunning duties from Rick Berman and Brannon Braga in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise, replacing Braga as executive producer. Although season 4 was generally considered the best one, it was too late to save the show from cancellation.
  • Writer/Actor Paul Lieberstein, for seasons 5-8 of The Office (US).
  • Writer/executive producer Sera Gamble worked as showrunner for Supernatural on Seasons 6 and 7.
    • Jeremy Carver took over from Gamble starting with Season 8.
  • Neal Baer became showrunner of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for season 2, replacing original showrunner Robert Palm, and remained in that position for eleven seasons, the longest tenure in franchise history.
    • Warren Leight replaced Baer as showrunner from season 13 onward.
  • Rene Balcer assumed the role of showrunner for the original Law & Order twice: once in the late '90s, and again in the late noughties. In both cases, he left to helm a spinoff as the initial showrunner: First Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and then Law & Order: Los Angeles.
  • When Marti Noxon was promoted to executive producer for Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she also became showrunner for that season, since Joss Whedon was initially preoccupied with the creation of a single episode ("Once More With Feeling"), as well as prepping Firefly.
  • After David Greenwalt left Angel, Jeffrey Bell took over as showrunner for the final two seasons. note 
  • Following the Charles Brothers stepping out of the showrunners' positions on Cheers, they were followed by:
    • Season 3: Ken Estin and Sam Simon
    • Seasons 4-7: David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee
    • Seasons 8-10: Cheri Eichen, Bill Steinkellner and Phoef Sutton
    • Season 11: Dan O'Shannon and Tom Anderson
  • Gene Reynolds (season 5), and Burt Metcalfe (seasons 6-11): M*A*S*H (Creator Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds were the co-producers of the show for the first four seasons; when Gelbart departed after season 4, Reynolds took over for the fifth season, and after he too departed, Burt Metcalfe took over after previously being the show's associate producer up till then).
  • When Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane stepped down as showrunners to work on their new show Veronica's Closet, they were followed by:
    • Season 4: Michael Borkow
    • Seasons 5 & 6: Adam Chase
    • Season 7: Wil Calhoun
    • Seasons 8-10: Shana Goldberg Meehan & Scott Silveri
  • When Sabrina the Teenage Witch creator Nell Scovell stepped down after season 1, the showrunners were:
    • Seasons 2-4: Miriam Trogdon
    • Seasons 5 & 6: Bruce Ferber
    • Season 7: David Babcock
  • While King of the Hill co-creator Greg Daniels remained a large creative force through the end of season 4, the main showrunners after season 2 were:
    • Seasons 3-5: Richard Appel
    • Season 6: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
    • Seasons 7-13: John Altschuler & David Krinsky
  • When Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing at the end of season 4, veteran ER producer John Wells became the showrunner of the last three seasons.
  • When Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar left at the end of season 7, Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Kelly Sounders, and Brian Peterson became the showrunners of the eighth season. When Slavkin and Swimmer left at the end of season 8 to develop the Melrose Place 2009 revival series, Sounders and Peterson became the sole showrunners for the last two seasons.
  • Bill Lawrence was nominally the sole showrunner for the first eight seasons of Scrubs, though shared his duties with several other writers, most notably the duo of Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman. For the heavily Re Tooled ninth season Lawrence mostly stepped away from the show in order to focus on Cougar Town, leaving Josh Bycel to take over as showrunner.
  • Jay Sommers: Petticoat Junction (season 2 and very little thereafter)
  • After Tracy Torme was forced out of the showrunner's role on Sliders, he was replaced by David Peckinpah for Seasons 3 and 4. Peckinpah in turn was fired at the end of Season 4, and replaced by Bill Dial for the fifth and final season.
  • Donald P. Bellisario was forced out of the showrunner position at NCIS by CBS after Season 4. He was replaced by Shane Brennan for Seasons 5 through 7. Gary Glasberg took over as showrunner in Season 8.
  • Howard Gordon took over the showrunners' role from 24 creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow at the start of Season 5.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had three showrunners replacing Stephen Hillenburg after the first movie. From Fear of a Krabby Patty to What's Eating Patrick (between 2005-2015), Paul Tibbitt was the showrunner. Starting with Patrick The Game, Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Waller are the current showrunners, according to Waller. It should be noted that all three of them have a supervising producer credit rather executive producer (although Tibbitt got promoted to that position in season 6 and remained there until he left the show after season 9).
    • Starting with Season 12, Waller and Ceccarelli are credited as co-executive producers.
  • Vampirina creator Chris Nee left the show after season 2 to work at Netflix. As such, season 3 sees story editor Chelsea Beyl take over as showrunner. She was a co-producer in season 2 while she became an executive producer in season 3.
  • Chris Savino created The Loud House , and was showrunner for seasons 1-2 as well as the majority of season 3. After he was fired, story editor Michael Rubiner took over as showrunner.

Shows Where the First Showrunner Was Not the Creator

  • In general, most Japanese Anime aren't created by a sole individual but by production committees. The staff credit commonly written as Series Composition (sometimes head writer or story structure depending on translations) is the equivalent of a show runner. There are exceptions of course.
  • Lost is a hybrid as far as the creator/showrunner classification is concerned. Created/showrun by J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof (Jeffrey Lieber, who shares "created by" credit, had nothing to do with the show after writing the original pilot script) and run since early on by Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.
  • Doctor Who, which has only had a 'showrunner' position since the 2005 revival. Created primarily by Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, Donald Wilson and C. E. Webber. The original series may be said to have divided the showrunner's duties between the producer and the script editor; sometimes the former (eg. John Nathan-Turner from 1980 to the cancellation) or the latter (eg. Douglas Adams, 1979; Andrew Cartmel, 1987-89) seemed to have more of the role. The entry earlier on this page goes with the producers as showrunners for the original series.
    • Likewise, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures were both technically created by Russell T Davies, but the initial showrunners were Chris Chibnall and Phil Ford respectively. Davies later took full control of Torchwood starting with its third series (though apparently handed a lot of his duties over to Jane Espenson for Torchwood: Miracle Day), while Ford remained showrunner on The Sarah Jane Adventures for its entire run.
    • Big Finish Doctor Who, the audio series, had Gary Russell as its showrunner until 2009, when Nicholas Briggs (the voice of the Daleks) took over the role.
  • An odd example in Wizards of Waverly Place: The show's creator, Todd J. Greenwald, was a staff writer and producer for the show's entire run, but he was never the showrunner - that honour went to Peter Murrieta for the first three seasons. Even when Murrieta left before the fourth season, Greenwald still did not become the showrunner.
  • Edward Allen Bernero wasn't the creator of Criminal Minds, but was its showrunner from the pilot to the end of the sixth season.
  • If a film series can count, producer David Heyman is essentially the showrunner of the Harry Potter movie franchise. Directors come and go and Heyman is often the one who selects them.
  • "Showrunning" duties on Star Trek: The Animated Series were divided between story editor D.C. Fontana and animation director Hal Sutherland; Gene Roddenberry, despite receiving creator credit, had no involvement with the series (though he was listed as the "Executive Consultant", in a harbinger of things to come).
  • Tim Minear ran Joss Whedon's Firefly.
  • Wings was created by the trio of David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee, with David Hackel being the showrunner for the first five seasons. After Hackel left, he was replaced by a three-man showrunner team consisting of Howard Gewirtz, Ian Gurvitz and Mark Reisman.
  • Frasier was also created by Angell, Casey and Lee, but Chris Lloyd was the showrunner in seasons 1-7, Dan O'Shannon was the showrunner in seasons 8-10, while Lloyd retuned in season 11, this time co-running with Joe Keenan. Lee was the most involved out of the creator trio, frequently directing episodes of the show, while Casey and (until his death during 9/11) Angell's role was mostly limited to consulting on storylines. Casey and Lee have had no involvement whatsoever with the sequel series, which is run by Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris, neither of whom ever wrote for the original series.
  • ER was created by Michael Crichton. The showrunners were:
    • Seasons 1-3: John Wells (though he remained on as a producer and writer)
    • Seasons 4-6: Lydia Woodward
    • Seasons 7-9: Jack Orman
    • Seasons 10-15: David Zabel
  • While Charmed was created by Constance M. Burge, Brad Kern was showrunner throughout all eight seasons. However, Burge remained on as writer and executive producer throughout the first two seasons before leaving at the end of season 2 due to creative differences with Kern.
  • Showtime's Dexter was created by James Manos Jr., with the showrunners being:
    • Seasons 1-4: Clyde Phillips
    • Season 5: Chip Johannessen
    • Seasons 6-8: Scott Buck
  • Power Rangers is a little complicated in this department. The show (disregarding its Japanese progenitor, Super Sentai) was created by the duo of Haim Saban and Shuki Levy. However Levy mostly ran the show for the first 4 and half seasons, taking more of a hands off approach around the second half of Turbo, leaving the show to producer John Tzachor and story editor Judd Lynn. Disney would have a rotation of show runners.
  • The creator credit on Highlander: The Series went to producers Bill Panzer and Peter Davis, with Kevin Droney acting as the showrunner for the first season, and then David Abramowitz taking over the role for the rest of the show's run. Abramowitz was also showrunner for the spin-off series Highlander: The Raven.
  • Adventure Time: Pendleton Ward was credited as co-producer in the first two seasons, whereas Fred Seibert (head of Frederator Studios, who co-own the rights to the show) and Derek Drymon were the showrunners. After Drymon left in the third season, Ward was promoted to co-showrunner, but later stepped down from a producer role entirely due to stress towards the end of the fifth season. Head writer/storyboard artist Adam Muto took his place for the rest of the series.
  • Creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts had no real involvement in the original version of Charlie's Angels after the 90-minute Pilot Movie. Edward J. Lakso acted as showrunner for the run of the actual series, albeit with executive producer Aaron Spelling having a fair bit of influence.
  • While George Lucas and Simon Kinberg were credited as the creators of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels respectively, the actual showrunning duties on both shows were shared between lead writer Henry Gilroy and supervising director Dave Filoni.
  • Lizzie McGuire: Terri Minsky wrote the pilot, which she sold to Disney Channel. One problem: when production on the first season was ready to begin, Minsky was already showrunning The Geena Davis Show. Thus, showrunning duties for Lizzie McGuire fell to Stan Rogow. (When Minsky sold another pilot, Andi Mack, to Disney Channel 15 years later, this time she did stay on as showrunner.)
  • Star Trek: Discovery was created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, but the former dropped out early in production due to creative differences, while the latter didn't have time to actively oversee the show due to directing The Mummy (2017). Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts therefore acted as the initial showrunners, only to end up being fired themselves halfway through production of the second season, resulting in Kurtzman taking over as showrunner.
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was initially showrun by Oliver Goldstick, though creator Tim Federle was a staff writer and producer on the show. When the two had Creative Differences, Disney sided with Federle over Goldstick regarding the show's content and tone, and Goldstick left the show in protest, allowing Federle to step up and become showrunner.
  • Sam Bobrick is credited as the creator of Saved by the Bell and all of its spinoffs and continuations over the years, but had no involvement whatsoever with the sprawling franchise after writing the original pilot for Good Morning Miss Bliss, which aired on NBC in the summer of 1987 before being picked up as a series by Disney Channel in 1988. The primary creative force for that series, and Saved by the Bell afterwards, was producer Peter Engel.

Showrunners in Fiction

  • 30 Rock: Liz Lemon is the showrunner for TGS with Tracy Jordan—and is played by the aforementioned Tina Fey, the actual creator-showrunner for 30 Rock.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Matt Albie and Danny Tripp
  • Almost Perfect: Kim Cooper
  • The TV Set: David Duchovny plays beleaguered showrunner Mike Klein.

Long-Running Shows That Never Changed Showrunners