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Tuesday, 28 January 2014 21:00

Showrunner’s Use Creativity to Tackle Issues

Written by  Margie & Frank Barron
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Creativity is part of the showrunners’ job description. That was the take-away from an interview panel with CBS drama showrunners during January 2014’s Television Critics Association press tour.

The presentation consisted of an impressive lineup of producers from some of the best dramas on TV—Rob Doherty from “Elementary,” Gary Glasberg from “NCIS”, Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman from “Person of Interest” and the husband and wife team Robert and Michelle King from “The Good Wife.”

All of them ignite the creative forces behind their shows, keep the productions running smoothly, and keep audiences on the edge of their seats. And during the interview session they spoke about the unique challenges they face to make sure the dramas get shot and get on the air as smoothly as possible.

Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman produce “Person of Interest” in New York City, Which is both a blessing and urse to shoot on city streets. “New York is a whale,” said Plageman. “I mean, we have made two standing sets two days in, sometimes three. But the rest of the show is this huge rambling wreck in the streets of New York City. And whether there’s a hurricane coming, or it’s going to snow, or there are 20 other shows shooting, or the UN’s in session, or the President’s in town. It’s tough. We’re a heavy POV show too, so getting all those pieces to come together coherent in the end is a real challenge.”

The “big picture” challenge for the Los Angeles-based “NCIS” is simply time. “I’m fortunate to have a really great team of people, the cast and crew that work on the show,” said Glasberg. “But as the season progresses it’s a lot of work. It eventually catches up to you and airdates catch up to you. Very often, you’ll finish an episode and then you look at your postproduction team and you have six days to turn the episode around from when it finished in the camera to all the post work that has to be done. So when I know that I’ve got effects people and editors and colorists and all kinds of people who are working all weekend and nights and whatnot to try to meet a delivery date, that’s when it gets tricky and because you don’t want to break your crew, that’s the challenge of doing 24 episodes.”

Elementary 300Doherty takes on a different challenge on “Elementary.”Thestars Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu “have to be together and on camera a ton and that makes it very difficult for us to find relief for them. What we have promised people is a Holmes and Watson show. And even when you want to find a little break for Lucy, or a little break for Jonny, it’s tough to do that because our audience has a certain expectation, and it influences what you shoot to tell a story.”

For “The Good Wife,” Michelle King explained the actors’ schedules are a big challenge. “I don’t think it is unique to us, but it’s scheduling, because we’re not looking to just do close ended procedural stories,” said King. “There are [story] arcs and the arcs do not just involve principal cast members. They involve guest cast. So if you’ve cast someone, say, to be Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) brother and then you feel the need to tell a story with Alicia’s brother, and he’s not available, you’ve got a problem. So you need to be creative.”

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