WORK IN PROGRESS

The list of Hollywood’s 50 most powerful showrunners is the most diverse ever

Issa Rae and Donald Glover are part of a new class of TV showrunners.
Issa Rae and Donald Glover are part of a new class of TV showrunners.
Image: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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Every year the Hollywood Reporter publishes a list of the 50 most powerful showrunners in television, and every year it features many of the same people: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), Dick Wolf (Law & Order), Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), and whichever white man happens to be in charge of The Walking Dead at any given time (for the past few years it’s been Scott Gimple).

This year’s list, however, is the most diverse in the decade that the publication has made them: About half (24) of the 50 teams of showrunners include at least one woman or person of color. That’s up slightly from last year (21) and double what it was in 2010, when just 12 of the 50 teams were represented by someone that wasn’t a white man.

Led by people like Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, and Donald Glover, women and minorities are not just getting more opportunity to run their own TV writer’s rooms—they’re maintaining positions of power and major influence. “Peak TV” and the streaming wars have played a part as well, as the truly enormous number of scripted series (more than 500 this year) has created a demand for people of different backgrounds to create content.

As there always are with these moments of progress, there are major caveats. The list highlights 50 teams of showrunners—not 50 showrunners in total. There are actually about 70 people listed, since many shows are run by more than one person. So if you count each co-showrunner individually, then the percentage of women and persons of color represented predictably shrinks, to less than 40%.

And while some strides have been made on the directing front (women directed 25% of all episodes this past TV season, while directors of color constituted 24%), networks are still struggling to diversify writer’s rooms (paywall). A UCLA report found that just 35% of writers on broadcast shows are women, while only 15% are minorities—and those numbers are even worse on cable shows.

Here’s the full 2018 list from the Hollywood Reporter: