The first year of a TV show, the showrunner normally has all the power. Once the show is a success, however, the star is irreplaceable. At that point, they can fire the showrunner and make decisions without consulting the writers. I worked on a show where a very powerful star was attached as an Executive Producer. She acted in the show, but not as the star. That was an unforgettable experience. The names are changed to protect the writer.
Note the generous use of “apparently,” and “allegedly.”
Meet Mr. Green & Mrs. Brown
I worked on a TV show with two very funny stand-up comics who made the transition to comedic acting. Let’s call them Mrs Brown and Mr. Green. Mr. Green’s wife, Mrs. Brown was the star of her own successful TV show.
Mr. Green was very talented in his own right. They were both funny. Mrs. Brown had great writers on her show. So, she convinced some of the best writers to create a show for her husband. She named herself an Executive Producer on her husband’s show, so she was always around the offices and sets.
My partner and I didn’t start on the husband’s show until after a power struggle with the original showrunner. A new Executive Producer took over the show. My partner and I were hired by that showrunner.
Mrs. Brown appeared to be the kind of actress who didn’t want anyone to make eye contact with her. As writers on this show, my partner and I often said we felt like ants when she’d walk by us. We felt like tiny little creatures who didn’t matter.
She enjoyed messing with her writer’s heads. For example, my writing partner had long hair, and she assumed I was Jewish, so she never referred to us by our names. She called us “The Hippie and The Jew.”
She reportedly bought numbered tee shirts for her writing staff and gave the number 1 shirt to the best writer, and so on, so some writers were getting tee shirts numbered 22. Apparently, that’s how she treated writers.
The alleged affair.
Mr.Green was very funny. The show worked. After a while, however, Mr. Green allegedly had an affair with a much younger woman, and insisting she get a Producer credit.
My partner and I were working on the show at the time and witnessed much of this. As it appeared to us, the following events occurred; the star’s wife, Mrs. Brown appeared to have found out about the affair. It appeared that she had the studio security nail the door to her husband’s office shut, and it appeared that he was banned from the lot.
Whether it happened exactly like that or not, I’m not sure. However, that’s what it looked like.
The next day, we witnessed what was called a “Divorce Party.” It appeared to take place on Mrs. Brown’s sound-stage and lasted all afternoon. Apparently, she hired male strippers to entertain her and the other actors, and to send a message to Mr. Green.
Despite all the issues we experienced, the show’s reviews were terrific, and the ratings were solid. We broke for the season fully expecting to come back to our second year.
How we got cancelled.
This is the way we heard the story of the show’s cancellation. The story came down from various sources. Apparently, the studio did want the show back; however, they allegedly said they’d bring the show back midseason, which would have fine for everybody – except Mr. Green. Apparently, he held firm, thinking he had the power to change the studio’s mind.
He allegedly told the executives that a mid-season start was out of the question. We heard that he told the network to bring his show back in the fall, and place it right after his wife’s highly rated show.
The network said no. So, it appeared that Mr. Green, in effect, cancelled his own show. Our show. Well, we were producers on the show. Our careers were in a great place to take off. I remember a Simpson’s writer who loved our show telling us to expect what they had with their show’s success. Huge salaries, and big houses. They were very well-off. However, it was not to be.
A cautionary tale. When you work with actors who are more powerful than the showrunners, you have to manage your expectations. We went on to create our own shows after that, some of which were very successful. We were lucky to bounce back from the experience. Fortunately, everybody understood what we were dealing with. They didn’t blame us for the show’s cancellation. We were given other opportunities.