After being fabled in urban lore for years, the Season of the Showrunner Switcheroo has finally come to be. Ever since the network upfronts announced which series would be returning for the upcoming television season, the public has heard news of several shows dropping their existing showrunners and bringing in new ones. The latest in the trend is Last Man Standing, the Tim Allen sitcom that just concluded its first season on ABC. EW reports that original showrunner Kevin Abbott is leaving his post to take the lead on the new ABC program Malibu Country, starring Reba McEntire. Tim Doyle (who has served as EP on The Big Bang Theory and Rules of Engagement) will be assuming control of Last Man Standing.
The news might have been more jarring if the world wasn't quickly becoming desensitized to the idea of showrunner swapping. Recently, the HBO hit True Blood (which aired its Season 5 premiere on Sunday) announced that creator and showrunner Alan Ball would be stepping down, and the series executive producer Mark Hudis would be taking charge for the developing sixth season. You can read more about this here.
The Showtime dramedy Nurse Jackie nabbed former Dexter writer/showrunner Clyde Phillips to lead. Former series heads Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem dropped out of production in light of Nurse Jackie's relocation to New York. You can read more about this here.
Prior to this, it was announced that Cougar Town, which is moving from ABC to TBS, would be giving creative control to Ric Swartzlander. Original showrunners/creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel will remain attached as executive producers — they and the cast have expressed a positive attitude about the change-up. You can read more about this here.
Back in March, Paul Lieberstein, The Office's showrunner and onscreen sad sack (better known as Toby Flenderson), announced that he would be giving up his top dog position in order to head The Office's developing Dwight Schrute-centric spinoff, The Farm. No word yet on who will take Lieberstein's spot as showrunner. You can read more about this here.
The freshman comedy Whitney didn't quite earn its keep during its first year on NBC, but the network is bent on finding the magic it believes to be inherent in its star's television presence. Whitney has hired Friends vet Wil Calhoun to take over; previous showrunner Betsy Thomas will remain EP status. You can read more about this here.
But the greatest deal of outrage has come in response to the replacement of Dan Harmon as showrunner on his cult phenomenon, NBC's Community. Harmon was removed by the network from his position and granted an executive producer credit; outside writers David Guarascio and Moses Port were brought on to head the series. You can read more about this here, but try not to get too depressed.
[Image Credit: ABC]
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NBC is determined to make it work with their new girl Whitney. Despite receiving chilly reception in its first season from both critics and audiences alike (it ranked 27th among adults 18-49 with a 2.25 rating) the network not only gave Whitney Cummings' sitcom a second chance, but has recruited a new showrunner to shake things up.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wil Calhoun, who worked on one of NBC's greatest triumphs, Friends, will relieve executive producer Betsy Thomas from her post as showrunner. While Calhoun hasn't had a flawless track record (he's got Gary Unmarried and Kath & Kim to his credit, too) it's his Emmy-nominated work with Friends, one of NBC's all-time greatest successes, that likely got him recruited. He could just be the thing that saves Whitney from getting dropped. Calhoun worked as a writer/producer/editor on such classic Friends episodes as "The One With the Jellyfish," "The One Where Everybody Finds Out," and "The One With Ross' Sanwich." ("My sandwich? MY SANDWICH?!") Those three episodes in particular are a good barometer for what Calhoun can bring to the table; they possess some some key elements that Whitney is missing. "The One with the Jellyfish" put Monica way out of her comfort zone (it also set up the series' best Ross and Rachel cliffhanger); "The One Where Everybody Finds Out" used the entire ensemble to propel one of the show's biggest shifts (Monica and Chandler dating); and "The One with Ross' Sandwich" set forth a character shift that stuck. (Ross was always a bit of a spazz, but never quite like this.) It did what Friends did best, it had fun, but it also moved the story along. On paper, Whitney has nearly the same premise as Friends, young urbanites feeling their way through life and love. But Whitney seems intent on trying to make itself a relatable voice for twenty and thirtysomething urban cohabitants. (Aren't men so clueless in relationships?! Nyuk, nyuk!) While it's not to say that Friends didn't try to root itself in some reality, it was a mammoth hit because of its lighthearted mood, broad appeal, and its instantly recognizable characters. While Whitney has been exiled to the dreaded Friday night schedule as the lead-in to the cult comedy Community, it will be interesting to see if Calhoun can salvage the sitcom from an almost certain sophomore death. Do you think Calhoun can make Whitney work or is the series doomed? Whitney's New Showrunner [Photo credit: NBC] More: TV Checkup: Whitney