Showrunners review: 'Oh no, I have this bad back from lifting all this gold bullion'

This entertaining documentary about TV’s movers & shakers is definitely running on plenty

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Director: Des Doyle
Cert: 12A
Genre: Documentary
Starring: J J Abrams, Joss Whedon, Shawn Ryan
Running Time: 1 hr 26 mins

The art of documentary film-making has a lot to do with timing. Every now and then a subject becomes ripe for exploitation. Get there first and you’ve won half the battle.

A few short years ago, few civilians knew what a showrunner was. Now the people who oversee the day-to-day production of high-end TV shows have become the new gods. JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon have done well as directors, but, it was as showrunners on, respectively, Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer that they made their names.

Des Doyle has assembled an impressive array of talking heads to explain the procedures in this consistently engrossing documentary. It’s a gruelling business. Churning out up to 22 hours of quality television in six months is nobody’s idea of a sinecure. Still, most of the contributors are happy to acknowledge that they have the job most everybody wants. “Oh no, I have this bad back from lifting all this gold bullion,” one contributor laughs.

As well as accepting observations from the likes of Abrams and Whedon, Doyle follows Matthew Carnahan as he takes House of Lies, a series on management consultancy, from pilot to first season. The documentary is sober about the dangers and realistic about the concomitant disappointments.


“The first year they work for you,” one showrunner says of the actors. “The second year you are partners. The third year you work for them.”

Just one of many cries from the heart in an entertaining diversion that – though it’s nice to see it emerge in cinemas – would play perfectly well on the medium it examines.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist