The Ankler Preview: There's No Business Like Showrunner Business

Showrunner Showrunner...The Coyote's After You

If there’s been one clear consequence of these early stages of the Great Entertainment Semi-Finals, it’s been a massive transfer of power and wealth from disparate fiefdoms and little people under the control of a handful (20? 30?) of Brand-Name Showrunners, who are now lined up to produce all of entertainment and dispense with the booty as they see fit.

For all the majesty of the great streaming titans entering the thunderdome, they generally just seem like vessels for transferring money to the BNS, helpless before their whims. And which ever streamer can field the most awe-inspiring team of BNS will carry the day.

However, this week the BNS have learned, to their dismay, that with great power comes minimal expectations.  Across entertainment this week, the BNS are bumping up against this new world.   And here have been a few of the pinch points:

‘DEM THRONES

THR had an eye-opening report on the Benioff/Weiss walk from Disney and the Star Wars universe. The piece opens with this provocative graph: 

Sometime this past summer, David Benioff and Dan Weiss took their families to Italy. It was partly a vacation, but the Game of Thrones showrunners were also visiting Star Wars creator George Lucas there, doing research for the trilogy of films they were set to oversee after wrapping HBO's Emmy-winning fantasy drama.

A couple of questions:

First of all: the Benioff and Weiss families vacation together?

Second, what is the research for a new series that requires an in-person pilgrimage to Lucas himself?  “George, did Yoda ever mention any nieces or nephews he might have had that gone into shipbuilding? Perhaps some cousins on Dantooine?”

• THR continues:

“Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy is said to have been unhappy with the Netflix deal, inked just as they were scheduled to begin work on Star Wars.”

I mean, I can’t imagine why!  She’s devoting a billion dollars to a new series that the fate of her company rides on and for some reason insists on having her creators’ complete attention. What are we in 1997 here?  Isn’t there something in the Constitution about not restraining a BSN’s ability to cash in as many times as they possibly can at once?

I mean it says right here: 

“Many TV industry insiders at the time questioned why Netflix would spend $250 million to be in second position to Star Wars. But sources familiar with the deal say Netflix and Disney were in a shared first position, meaning the duo could work on both simultaneously.”   

They could work on them simultaneously!  It was right there in the contract!  What are you making such a fuss about? 

In ancient times, we thought that a producer could only oversee four or five shows at a time and still maintain minimal supervision, but since the smashing of the Berlanti Barrier, we know there’s an infinite amount of BSN’s to go around.

• One also wonders about Netflix’s willingness to share the creators it is paying such big bucks for.  

First: is it spending these hundreds of millions to actually get a Benioff and Weiss series (whatever those are) or is it spending them to get an announcement?  

And second: is it really spending hundreds of millions, on them or any creator, or is the payment all deferred, dependent on delivery, backloaded to late seasons which The App may or may not actually make for when it comes down to it?  In other words, even if they had gone off to Star Wars and made nothing, did Netflix get an announcement for free?

• “To go from Thrones to Star Wars, where fans have bullied actors off social media and taken aim at filmmakers like Johnson? "Who wants to go through that again? Not them," notes another source with knowledge of Benioff and Weiss' thinking. "This was in the 'Life’s Too Short' category.””

Really Benioff and Weiss?  After the scorn of the GoT’s last couple seasons, you’re scared of some whiny Reddit boards?  One would’ve thought a few hundred million would put a little bit of a moat between you and discontent fanboys.  Maybe that’s what the research trip to Lucas’ Italian remove was all about. Finding out with all the money in the world, where you can hide from your fans.

“Others were surprised that it was Benioff and Weiss' trilogy and not the other one in the works, from The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson (who is also in fan crosshairs), that was being shelved.”  

Is there anyone who works on any sci-fi fantasy epic these days who doesn’t end up as a villain to the fans?  Lord and Miller’s reputation survives because they weren’t around to see it brought low, but no doubt, that would’ve happened.  Fanboys live to be betrayed by anyone who would bring them a gifts, and the BNS need to buy themselves some spine to prepare for their scorn.

But beyond that, we now have the startling precedent that BNS might be expected to work on the productions they are being paid vast fortunes for, rather than just installing a trusted lieutenant and popping in now and then to sprinkle pixie dust on the whole enterprise.

This has been a preview of today’s edition of The Ankler, the industry’s secret newsletter. To read it all, subscribe today for just $10 a month.

ALSO IN TODAY'S EDITION!

  • THE SHOWRUNNER BLIND ITEM. WHAT SHOW AND WHAT COMPANY HAS A ME TOO FLARE UP BREWING ON ITS SET?

  • KURT' SUTTER: OUTLAW SHOWRUNNER

  • WHY WE’RE NOT GOING TO THE MOVIES

AND SO MUCH MORE!  SUBSCRIBE TODAY AND DON'T MISS OUT ALL THE NEWS THAT'S GOT HOLLYWOOD IN A TIZZY!

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