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Which TV Showrunner Would Make the Best Thanksgiving Guest? — IndieWire Critics Survey

A panel of TV critics pick which series mastermind would make the perfect guest with whom to eat (and talk) turkey.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

ABC/Image Group LA

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: Which showrunner would you like to invite to Thanksgiving dinner and why?

Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

Think what you will of her shows (personally, I think Season 1 of “Scandal” is a modern classic), but Shonda Rhimes is a delight. After reading her recent book “The Year of Yes,” I’ve been semi-obsessed with Shonda’s (I feel like I can call her Shonda) wit, confidence, and positive outlook. I’d like to believe that if Shonda said yes to dinner, she’d be a lively force at the table, a help in the kitchen before and after, and damn right she’d bring some incredible wine with her to share. Her presence would make me feel quite grateful, indeed.

READ MORE: What Is the Most Shocking TV Twist of the 21st Century So Far? — IndieWire Critics Survey

Gail Pennington (@gailpennington), St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I’d invite Mike Schur because we can talk baseball for hours, and we have. I’m forgiving him for having the Cubs win the World Series on “Parks and Rec,” apparently unjinxing them enough to let them win in real life. But to me, showrunners are like potato chips; you can’t stop at one. I’d also like to round out the table with the delightful, always entertaining Bryan Fuller, charming Canadian Hart Hanson and the enigmatic Noah Hawley. Wait! If Matthew Weiner isn’t busy, he can come, too.

Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

Oh, I would invite “Lucifer’s” showrunner Joe Henderson. Not only would he have great stories about working on “White Collar” before taking on Fox’s wildly entertaining adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics spin-off, but he’s a huge Cubs fan and I can only imagine he’d bring a ton of gratitude to the table. And that’s what Thanksgiving is about, right? Oh, and his baby boy Hobbes is one of my favorite people on Facebook, so hopefully, he’d bring him along.

Bryan Fuller

Bryan Fuller


Allison Keene (KeeneTV), Collider

Bryan Fuller would make for a lovely Thanksgiving guest, but the truth is that I would want him to actually showrun our Thanksgiving. I’m imagining the most decadent Hannibal-esque spreads (but, er, vegetarian friendly please), an exceptional harvest-themed setting, and routine family updates transformed into fantastical and potentially spine-tingling tales of wonder. I would also request that he bring Lee Pace in as The Piemaker to present a smorgasbord of desserts. Consider then Fuller’s soundtrack choices calibrated to send you off into a blissfully over-sugared and tryptophan-fueled nap … perfection.

READ MORE: Shonda Rhimes Puts Hollywood in Its Place With Rousing PGA Speech: ‘I Deserve This’

Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), HitFix

I’d invite Shonda Rhimes. She’s an amazing multi-tasker, meaning she could participate in all aspects of the day — parade-watching, food prep, family reunioning, maybe even complaining about the quality of the football games — without breaking a sweat, and she’d somehow be able to make time to interact with all the guests. Plus, while she’s among the toughest people in the business to get anything from in an interview or press conference setting, she’s always struck me as a great and fun conversationalist when she’s doing something more personal.

Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

I would invite David Milch to Thanksgiving dinner. First of all, he’s fallen on hard times a bit, and I’m sure he would be pleased for the company. Second, I think he would be really effusive if he liked the turkey (and I cook a mean turkey). But above all else, I feel as if he would be just the guy to quiet the inevitable political squabbles that erupt between family members. He would probably interrupt our Trump vs. Clinton spats with some sort of long view historical approach to questions that animate civilization, or the fundamentally imaginary nature of money, or even a long stemwinder about Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate child and the mud-slinging election of 1884. Then he would probably say something about how we’re all doomed anyway, so we have to take care of each other as best we can. That’s how I imagine it at least.

Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper and Robert Carlock

Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper and Robert Carlock

Matt Baron/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com

A Tina Fey and Robert Carlock two-for-one special. Their whip-smart weirdness is exactly what I need at my table, especially if things get awkward or tryptophanic. Plus, I have to pick their brains more about the genius that was Puppazza (apologies for the shameless plug), who has a lifelong open invitation to join us at any dinner table.

READ MORE: ’30 Rock’: 10 Reasons Tina Fey Made One of TV’s Most Important Comedies

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

I love smart funny people. Jersey boy, Jonathan Ames, is my first pick to invite for Thanksgiving. The comedic sensibilities he has and the filter through which he sees life resonate strongly with me. If I could add another showrunner to this fantasy table it would be Pamela Adlon because, dammit, “Better Things”! And she would bring an amazing side dish, I just know it.

I picked Ames as a first choice because I still mourn “Bored to Death’s” cancellation on HBO and love “Blunt Talk” on Starz. His published stories are gold too.

Ames seems so unpretentious and even downright shy at TCA events and such. I love polite, humble geniuses and would love to get a drink in him and dive into how he conceptualized Zach Galifianakis’ character Ray getting bathed by Belinda (Olympia Dukakis). He was the first showrunner I believe to see that absurdist side of Ted Danson’s range and bring a more adult comedic slant to this broadcast comedy icon.

We need more comedy showrunners like Ames who understand the art of ensemble casting, underwriting scenes that deliver twice the punch and who take wild and creatively big chances with comedy. I also believe that if I made a dish for the Thanksgiving table he didn’t like that he would never complain about it at all.

Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR

Lorne Michaels. Because there is a certain diabolical deftness to the way he has maneuvered “Saturday Night Live” through an election season which nearly made the show look more irrelevant than it has been in years. The combination of drafting Alec Baldwin to play Donald Trump – after two other performers largely failed to lampoon his essential Trump-ness – and managing to make this current season’s “SNL” episodes among the most consistent in the show’s recent history, only demonstrates that Michaels, at age 72, still has a knack for placing the show at the center of the show business zeitgiest. All that, and he brought back Dave Chappelle for a triumphant post-election return to TV. Almost makes up for letting Trump guest host last year. Almost.

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

Most showrunners are going to be good conversationalists, so there have to be X-factors. Like… Do you dislike the family members at your dinner and might it be funny to watch them deal with Kurt Sutter? Perhaps! Are you worried about conversational lulls? Aaron Sorkin won’t leave any. And since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, doesn’t Shonda Rhimes own Thursdays, giving her right-of-first-refusal on all dinner invites? Indeed. But let’s be honest: Thanksgiving is a meal and if you follow Kevin Biegel on Twitter, you know the “Cougar Town” and “Enlisted” veteran has become a BBQ master, so devoted to his craft that “The Simpsons” even included a sight-gag nodding to Biegel’s pit enthusiasms. So if you’re having a showrunner to dinner, it’s great if they can bring humor and friendliness, but it’s even better if they can bring those things, plus a perfectly smoked main course. Welcome to Thanksgiving, Kevin Biegel!

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

The dirty secret behind the solemn family holiday seen on shows like “Modern Family” and “Black-ish” is that, when done right, Thanksgiving skews a lot closer to Bob’s absinthe-riddled “Bob’s Burgers” holiday special or the gang on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” squashing beefs. In other words, the day itself needs a heaping helping of madness to avoid being stuffy and awkward. So if I’m going to be sitting down with someone throughout the day and into the late evening, balancing pie slices with old fashioneds, then they a) better have something to say, and b) need to keep up. To that end, I’d probably extend an offer to Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Clever, confident, and incredibly fun, the brilliant women behind “Broad City” would have the best strategies for consuming as much as humanly possible without losing the spirit of the day. (That, and together we could easily mine secrets from bonus guest Damon Lindelof about where the Departed really went on “The Leftovers.” Australia, right? Right?)

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Rectify” (6 votes)

Other contenders: “Westworld” (2 votes), “This Is Us” (2 votes) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (1 vote)

*In the case of streaming, the show must have premiered in the past month.

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