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How does the Creator of a TV Show Maintain Creative Control?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

There are a number of different ways in which the creator of a TV show can maintain creative control, though none of them are guaranteed. One of the best ways is to find a network who will offer the creator of the show a contract that explicitly provides him or her with a great deal of control. The creator of the show can also ensure that he or she becomes the showrunner on the program, which will grant him or her greater control as well. It can also be easier to maintain creative control if the creator has a proven track record in the television or film industry.

Creative control over a TV show typically comes down to who is able to make the major decisions regarding the production of a show. This can include everything from writing scripts and hiring other writers to casting the actors and actresses, approving locations, and choosing the music used on the show. A great deal of this creative control is granted, to the creator or to others, by the contract established between the creator and the network producing the show.

The creator of a TV program gains greater artistic control by becoming a showrunner.
The creator of a TV program gains greater artistic control by becoming a showrunner.

One of the best ways for the creator of a TV show to maintain creative control is through the contract he or she has with the network. A show creator can shop his idea around to different networks until he finds one that will offer him enough control over the show. The creator should also try to become the showrunner for the show, as this position establishes a great deal of how a show is produced. A showrunner typically has tremendous creative control over a TV show and can control the direction the show takes over numerous seasons.

TV networks are also less likely to give a first-time creator a great deal of creative control over his or her TV series. Someone with a proven track record, usually consisting of one or more highly successful shows, will have a better chance of keeping control over a project. If a network believes someone can create a profitable show, then the network is more likely to let that person work unhindered. Even this is not a guarantee, however, and falling ratings or loss of advertising revenue can lead to a loss of creative control, change of showrunner on a program, and eventual cancellation.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - I think Jim Henson actually owned his own studio after years of working behind the scenes in other shows. So there was no way he was going to fire himself.

And I actually think that might be the way to go if you want complete creative control. Leave the big budget behind and finance your own projects.


@KoiwiGal - I don't know if it's impossible. If you look at the creative model that Jim Henson had with his shows, I don't think he would ever have been replaced, because he was basically synonymous with the brand.

And that happens with other shows as well. I know when the Community showrunner was replaced the fans were outraged and continued to lobby for him to be brought back until the studio relented.

I wish the same had happened with other shows, but often executive producers think they know better than the audience.


This seems to be almost impossible to do for some reason. There are plenty of shows which seemed to be successful but they have still had the showrunner replaced against their will.

I can see it happening if they want to leave the show, but generally a showrunner who has a vision for a show will want to stay at least until the end of that vision.

Often it goes downhill quite a bit after the main person leaves too, which is a shame. I guess it's because they replace them with someone less daring.

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    • The creator of a TV program gains greater artistic control by becoming a showrunner.
      By: DeshaCAM
      The creator of a TV program gains greater artistic control by becoming a showrunner.