They’re the men responsible for some of the biggest shows on TV, the masterminds who are able to craft a killer plotline, flesh out a complex character or pull the rug right out from under you and your Sunday night box-set binge.
But as Boardwalk Empire begins its final eight-episode run this week and with Mad Men about to enter its final run, could it be that we've reached a natural conclusion - or pause - in TV’s much-lauded ‘golden age'?
Before we start panicikng too much, we thought it was wise to check on the current movements of TV's five most powerful showrunners showrunners, to see what they're working on next. Who knows, they might take over your life very soon.
1 | Terrence Winter, Boardwalk Empire
After a shaky fourth season, Boardwalk Empire promises to return to its moody criminal roots in its fifth and final season, but the man responsible for adapting the show from page to screen has already begun work on his next project.
The as-yet untitled show will focus on the music industry in the seventies, as the popular rock scene gives way to emerging punk, disco and hip hop subcultures. Bobby Cannavale has been cast as a cocaine-fuelled record exec, while Olivia Wilde recently signed on to play his wife.
Martin Scorsese is heavily involved, as is, weirdly, Mick Jagger. The show is not greenlighted yet, but principal shooting began in 2014, and the pilot has been completed.
2 | Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
You’d think the man behind the iconic Breaking Bad would make sure his next big project was as far removed as possible from the world of crime, meth and dubious morals. Not so.
Shortly after Breaking Bad came to an end, Gilligan announced that a spin-off was in the works focusing on the show’s breakout star, morally corrupt lawyer Saul Goodman.
Better Call Saul takes place in 2002, when Saul was known by the name James M McGill, and it looks set to continue the comedy/drama shtick that made actor Bob Odenkirk’s character such a key part of the show.
Will it work as a stand-alone show, though? The jury’s still out. But the show will be on screens (and on Netflix) in early 2015, with a second season following in 2016.
3 | Matthew Weiner, Mad Men
While there’s typically zero details regarding the final episodes of Mad Men, we do know that creator Matthew Weiner is turning his attention to the big screen for his next project.
The result, Are You Here, came out last month but has taken over eight years to get to where it is, having been written during Weiner’s days on The Sopranos but undergoing major facelifts in the process.
The film focuses on a bipolar stoner (Zac Galifianakis) who inherits a farm after his father’s death. Amy Poehler plays his uptight sister, and Owen Wilson appears as a philandering weatherman. There’s little in common with Mad Men, though Are You Here retains Weiner’s skill at painting nuanced, complex adult characters.
4 | Alan Ball, True Blood
The vampires on True Blood may be hanging their capes up pretty soon, but former show runner Alan Ball, who was also the mastermind behind Six Feet Under, has already got another project to sink his teeth into.
His next project is I Am Chippendales, an adaptation of a book by the same name, which tells the story of Steve Banjeree, an immigrant who goes from being a gas attendant to running a high end nightclub and the boom of male strippers in the 1980s.
Ben Stiller is in talks to appear as choreographer Nick de Noia, whose involvement helped the dance troupe reach commercial success. The film sounds less Mad Mike and more Scarface; the real life Banerjee eventually pleaded guilty to attempted arson, racketeering and murder, having hired a hitman to take out a business rival.
5 | David Chase, The Sopranos
Since The Sopranos came to its exhilarating (if vague) ending in 2007, speculation on David Chase’s next project has been rife.
All we know about A Ribbon Of Dreams is that it’s a mini-series being developed for HBO focusing on the pioneers of early cinema, and Hollywood’s growth from silent Westerns to the first golden era of film. The leads are a college-educated engineer and a cowboy with a violent past, who form an unlikely partnership and take on the industry.
Could it be the next Mad Men? Details are still scarce, but Chase has developed a huge reputation for his work, and the inner-workings of Hollywood is ripe for storytelling.