Author: Cy Chermak

Publisher: Jacobs Brown Press; 1st edition (July 22, 2017)

ISBN-10: 0998866318

ISBN-13: 978-0998866314

Cy Chermak has written a book that should become required reading in all film schools, especially for courses focused on TV production. General readers not likely to ever stand on a production stage will also find the book illuminating as it’s all about how TV shows are made and demonstrates just what a “showrunner” is in the industry.   

After he shares his background as an actor and script writer in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Chermak illustrates all the components of a showrunner’s, or Executive Producer’s, job from finding scripts and writers, casting, squabbling with agents, finding locations, dealing with conflicts between actors and directors, filming, worrying about budgetary constraints, editing, and scoring. Not to mention choosing props, costumes, special effects, stunts, and determining logistics with the transportation coordinator. As Chermak notes, most of the cast and crew of a TV production are focused on their particular area of interest. Only the producer has to monitor every aspect of the production.

Chermak shows how all this is done with a combination of personal anecdotes drawing from his experiences working on shows like CHIPS, Ironside, The Bold Ones, Barbary Coast, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker blended with discussions of the lessons he learned along the way. He isn’t interested in name dropping, although we read stories about the likes of Raymond Burr, Eric Estrada, Lee J. Cobb, and Aaron Spelling. However, most stories are about what happened when and not so much by whom.

What did Chermak learn and what does he teach us? Well, if you didn’t know already, network executives and the Powers That Be don’t care much about quality.  They want programming brought in on time and as inexpensively as possible. In the tiers and tiers of executives in the studios and offices, many fingers want to stir the production stews without contributing much to the product other than trying to justify their jobs.     

No one should be surprised to read tales revealing the process revolves around egos and personality conflicts. Judgement calls and creative decisions are often determined by just who has the power to call the shots and not so much what the best course of action might be. But Chermak also spends considerable time discussing what makes for good scripts, how music can aid or distract from scenes, how to edit for good timing and how to please the studio heads.   

Just what gives Cy Chermak the credentials to tell us all these things?  Beyond working on the shows mentioned above, during his 30-year career in television, Chermak worked as a freelance writer on shows like Bonanza and   Star Trek: The Next Generation, Story editor on series like Rescue 8 and The Virginian, and was nominated for three primetime Emmys, the Writers Guild of America Award, and the Humanitas Prize.  He has also received the NAACP’s Image Award.

I hope this short overview doesn’t suggest The Showrunner is a dry read without heart, humor, or human interest.   It has all three, and on nearly every page. It’s not like other books that discuss what a producer is without having a personal touch. It’s a fast read that retains interest by taking readers behind the scenes of TV production from a very knowledgeable insider’s perspective. Again, this is a book that’s not just for future showrunners. It’s for anyone who likes to go behind-the-scenes of TV production.