Showrunners and Twitter have an interesting and occasionally fraught relationship. For a long time, after all, people didn’t give much thought to who was steering their favorite TV series — it took the arrival of the David Chases, Simons and Milchs for many viewers to start paying attention to the creative forces responsible for the shows they loved. And the advent of social media meant that those showrunners, should they so choose, could have access to a direct line to their viewing audience as they watched each new episode and doled out opinions on each development in 140 character bursts — unfiltered, instant feedback from fans, haters and obsessives.
Some showrunners, like the ones listed below, have taken to Twitter, while others, like the aforementioned Davids, have kept far away (Simon has even posted examples of why he dislikes the medium). Damon Lindelof, the screenwriter and former “Lost” showrunner who has a new series, “The Leftovers,” set to premiere this year on HBO, ended up quitting Twitter in October for reasons some felt could be traced to the dissatisfaction with the ABC drama’s finale over three years earlier, still being complained about by certain disgruntled fans. Television makes for an ongoing conversation, which some writers and producers choose to participate in and others prefer to stay out of — below are 15 who do chime in on their current series and on others, and who are well worth a follow.
Bryan Fuller: “Hannibal”
“Hannibal” is such a dark series that you can forget that Fuller is also the creative force behind far more whimsical fare like “Dead Like Me,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Wonderfalls.” But then you turn to his caps lock-happy Twitter account, where he continually brings some welcome levity to a show that on air can go to some very disturbing places. He retweets fans, surfaces material from his past gigs and presents photos from the set of the NBC serial killer drama that suggest the production proceeds with a considerably lighter state of mind than the series itself.
Andrew Haigh: “Looking”
“Looking” showrunner (and “Weekend” director) Haigh is on Twitter, as is his collaborator, series creator Michael Lannan, both stepping up their efforts as the new HBO series has kicked off. Lannan, who’s newer to the social media platform, has been responding to questions and comments about the new HBO series while Haigh’s been tracking down reviews, but what’s most fun about both accounts is how you can scroll back to the days when the show started shooting, or, in Haigh’s case, when the pilot was shooting and when it was picked up to series.
Dan Harmon: “Community”
Harmon has always seemed astonishingly honest and available on social media, qualities that have endeared him to fans while sometimes causing him trouble — as when he’s been ill-advisedly open on his podcast/show Harmontown about his tiffs with former cast member Chevy Chase or the quality of “Community” in the season with which he was not involved. The upside is that Harmon is one of the most forthright TV industry voices on Twitter, discussing his series, carrying on gleeful feuds with other users that sometimes get referenced on air and otherwise offering up jokes that sound like they could come from one of his characters.
Emily Kapnek: “Suburgatory”
Now in its third season, the ABC comedy Kapnek created and runs has expanded from being just a skewering of upscale suburbs into a nicely surreal but emotionally resonant take on teenage angst and the growing up being done by both Tessa (Jane Levy) and her dad George (Jeremy Sisto). With the show’s return, Kapnek’s been going on to answer questions and respond to comments during the airings — suggesting people read certain Jackie Collins books, letting viewers know when George will get cleaned up and discussing an episode’s music cues.
Kyle Killen: “Mind Games”
“I wrote that show that got canceled and that movie you didn’t see,” proclaims Killen’s Twitter bio. The screenwriter of Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver,” Killen’s the creator of the acclaimed, canceled “Lone Star” and “Awake,” two smart high-concept series that attracted praise but not the audiences necessary for their respective networks, Fox and NBC, to keep them going. Killen has a new series, “Mind Games,” premiering on ABC on February 25th, with Steve Zahn and Christian Slater playing brothers who solve problems for their clients using psychological manipulation — a slightly more accessible premise, perhaps. On Twitter, Killen’s been teasing out photos from the production, is very responsive and has a refreshing sense of humor about his experiences in TV to date.
Jenni Konner: “Girls”
Konner acts as co-showrunner of “Girls” alongside star Lena Dunham (who is, of course, also on Twitter), bringing the experience of having co-created and produced 2009 ABC sitcom “In the Motherhood” and 2006 one “Help Me Help You.” She was also a writer on “Undeclared” — which was how she met Judd Apatow — and is funny and opinionated, both about the series on which she works (one that generates a lot of opinions!) and other shows she watches.
Ronald D. Moore: “Helix,” “Outlander”
With “Battlestar Galactica,” Moore revamped a 1970s franchise into something dark, compelling and profound that tackled issues of humanity and faith while feeling like sci-fi’s answer to the ambitious, gritty dramas that ushered in our current golden age of television. Moore’s currently got two new projects in the works, the ongoing claustrophobic infection series “Helix” on Syfy and the upcoming historical fantasy saga “Outlander,” and what may be most interesting about his Twitter account is just how much he knows his way around a passionate fandom. For instance, he divided a Twitter Q&A into five questions apiece for each series he worked on, and he’s been reassuringly careful about letting the devoted following the “Outlander” novels already have know that the show intends to do right by the story and characters.
Ryan Murphy: “American Horror Story,” “Glee”
Murphy’s currently straddling very different genres with the two series he has on air, one an over-the-top, gory horror anthology show and the other an equally over-the-top high school musical dramedy — and he also has the HBO movie “The Normal Heart,” adapted from Larry Kramer’s play, coming out in May, as well as a pilot called “Open,” also at the premium network. That busy schedule may be why Murphy chooses not to follow anyone on Twitter, instead using it to tweet out photos from behind the scenes of his two series as well as juicy casting details. Murphy’s longtime producing partner Brad Falchuk is on Twitter as well.
Noxon’s got a few pilots in the works — “Unreal,” at Lifetime, is a particularly interesting one presenting a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a reality show, based on a terrific short, “Sequin Raze,” from Sarah Gertrude Shapiro that made the festival rounds last year. Then there’s “Girlfriends Guide To Divorce” at Bravo and Syfy’s “Proof,” which Noxon co-wrote with M. Night Shyamalan. She’s also a TV powerhouse who took over as showrunner of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from Joss Whedon in its later seasons (“I ruined Buffy and I will RUIN YOU TOO,” notes her Twitter bio), and worked on “Prison Break,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Mad Men,” and she’s preparing to direct in 2014. She’s also quick to point out the gender imbalances and weirdnesses in the industry and to discuss being a working mom in a realm that doesn’t make it easy.
Shonda Rhimes: “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”
Rhimes isn’t just one of the most successful and powerful showrunners working today, she’s also a woman of color working in an industry still largely white and male-dominated. On her Twitter account, she brings some much-needed perspective in this regard between sincerely enthusiastic tweets about her two current series that make it clear just how much she loves her job. She directed people to a post about expecting black female characters to be role models, highlighted a video about how the qualities assigned to people change with gender, and her recent response to Mike Huckabee’s comments about birth control was a joy. And even if she’s on top of the TV world, she’s not afraid to confess to staying in to watch some figure skating.
Ryan’s last project, a high profile “Beverly Hills Cop” pilot that focused on Axel Foley’s son Aaron (Brandon T. Jackson), wasn’t picked up to series by CBS. But the prolific writer and producer just signed to another three-year overall deal with Sony Pictures TV and has a 1950s Hawaii-set project directed by Justin Lin at Fox and a hacktivist drama called “Freedom” at ABC, meaning he’ll have a new series on TV soon. The creator of “The Shield,” “The Chicago Code” and “Last Resort” as well as the showrunner of the beloved “Terriers,” Ryan’s a very savvy and experienced maker of good shows, and on Twitter he answers questions, reacts to praise and roots for the Cubs — and isn’t above a little bribery when it comes to the latter.
Michael Schur: “Parks and Recreation”
After retiring from Twitter in October, Schur announced that his New Year’s resolution was “to burn more of my waning lifeforce by tossing thoughts into an angry void, so I’m gonna start tweeting again!” It was happy news — the co-creator of “Parks and Recreation” (for which he’s the showrunner) and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Schur’s a mightily talented comedic voice, though (fair warning) he does devote a lot of his tweeting to sports, and has written about sports on other sites under the pen name Ken Tremendous, which is also his Twitter handle. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” showrunner Dan Goor, who created the Golden Globe-winning Fox series with Schur, is also on Twitter.
Kurt Sutter: “Sons of Anarchy”
The “Sons of Anarchy” creator brings a lot of attitude to Twitter — more than some people (this writer included) may want to commit to. But he’s also a tireless engager of his FX series’ giant fan base, holding online Q&As, retweeting fan photos and generally presenting an online persona to match the wry tough guy stances of the characters on his show. Sutter’s got a new series, the period drama “The Bastard Executioner,” in the works as a pilot back at FX, so don’t expect him to soften his voice anytime soon.
Rob Thomas: “Veronica Mars”
Thomas and star Kristen Bell successfully resurrected their UPN/CW series about a teen detective as a movie with the help of a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign last year that ushered in a new era of bigger ticket celebrity crowdfunding. All of which just goes to show how engaged Thomas is on social media, understanding that it’s a way to give fans who were willing to shell out their dollars in support of characters they love a window into the creative process. Thomas, who also created the much praised but little watched Starz comedy “Party Down,” has two new projects in development — a zombie drama series at the CW called “iZombie” and a modern day take on “Les Misérables” at Fox.
Beau Willimon: “House of Cards”
Playwright-turned-screenwriter-turned-showrunner Willimon is poised to launch the second season of “House of Cards” on Netflix next month, but in the meantime he’s been able to take some pleasure in the success the series has had, tweeting photos from the Golden Globes, where the political show was nominated in multiple categories, with Robin Wright winning for best actress in a drama series. He’s also offered tidbits from behind the scenes, snippets of political commentary (Willimon worked in the past for Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean) and even some hand-drawn cartoons in which Francis Underwood offers up his thoughts on D.C.