The X-Files (Showrunner Chris Carter): Writers’ Room (and the shows those writers now work on in a significant capacity): Frank Spotnitz (Hunted, Strike Back), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), John Shiban (Hell on Wheels), Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (Homeland, 24), Steven Maeda (Helix), Darin Morgan (Fringe), David Amann (Castle), Greg Walker (Vegas), Jeff Bell (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
Even if The X-Files had given us no one else but Vince Gilligan, for that reason alone it belongs in the top half of the list, but it also was an incubator for the guys behind Homeland and 24, the latter of which had quite the writers’ room itself. What did the writers learn from The X-Files? How to weave long-running arcs through a series.
The Shield (Showrunner Shawn Ryan): Writers’ Room (and the shows those writers now work on in a significant capacity): Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), Scott Rosenbaum (Chuck, V), James Manos, Jr. (Dexter), Elizabeth Craft (The Vampire Diaries).
Shawn Ryan’s Shield was hugely important not for just putting FX on the map, but for paving the way for dark basic cable dramas, very much like the ones currently run by former writers from The Shield: The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy. The importance of The Shield to the modern cable landscape cannot be overstated, not just for the show itself, but in the shows for which it paved the way.
Nash Bridges (Showrunner Carlton Cuse): Writers’ Room (and the shows those writers now work on in a significant capacity): Reed Steiner (The Shield, NCIS), John Wirth (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit, Terriers), Glen Mazzara (Hawthorne, The Walking Dead), Damon Lindelof (Lost).
And before The Shield, there was the writers’ room where Shawn Ryan cut his teeth under Carlton Cuse, who would go with another Nash Bridges writer, Damon Lindelof, to run Lost. Mazzara was also here before he landed on The Shield, while John Wirth created in The Sarah Connor Chronicles a show that was maybe a couple of years ahead of its time for the networks. It’s insane, really, how many great writers can be traced back to a show with Don Johnson and Cheech Marin.
NYPD Blue (Showrunner David Bocho): Writers’ Room (and the shows those writers now work on in a significant capacity): David Milch (Deadwood), Meredith Stiehm (Cold Case,The Bridge), Matt Olmstead (Prison Break, Chicago Fire), David Mills (The Wire), Greg Plagement (Person of Interest), Ann Biderman (Southland).
This is the show that had some crossover with Homicide: Life on the Streets, but gets the edge for not only having an important voice behind The Wire, but the creator of Deadwood — itself a hugely influential show — and Southland, a show that will hopefully become more influential in the years to come.
The Sopranos (Showrunner David Chase): Writers’ Room (and the shows those writers now work on in a significant capacity): Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green (Blue Bloods), Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Todd Kessler (Damages).
Not only did the writers of The Sopranos spawn two of the most important television series today in Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, but the show itself — and the writers — basically revolutionized television. Given the shows that The Sopranos writers on to create, you can see how that writers’ room was as contentious as rumored. After all, Kessler modeled the sadistic lead in Damages after The Sopranos’ showrunner David Chase. Burgess and Green, actually, went on to create Blue Bloods because they were actively seeking something less challenging and dense after The Sopranos.
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