Television Auteurs: 100 Small Screen Creators

Edited by

David Lavery

Under contract with the University Press of Mississippi.

For some time now, I have been researching and writing about “television creativity,” authoring published or forthcoming essays/chapters on David Chase, David Milch, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Rob Thomas, Matthew Weiner, and Tim Kring, and a book on Joss Whedon. Television Auteurs: 100 Small Screen Creators would constitute a major capstone to that work.

Forty years ago the American film critic Andrew Sarris published The America Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, a book that contributed significantly, thanks to its famous classification scheme for both major and minor film directors, to the importation of auteur theory into the US. Under the influence of Sarris’ goal of converting "film history into directorial autobiography," serious American moviegoers and critics interested in the movies began to think and talk and understand the movies through the specially-ground lenses provided by the auteur theory. "Over a group of films," Sarris insisted in what amounted to his foundational principle, "a director must exhibit certain recurrent characteristics of style, which serve as his signature.” Now television fans and scholars are thinking and talking about television with a new awareness of authorship: “Have you seen Joss Whedon’s new series Dollhouse?”  “Did you know that Stephen Moffat has taken over as showrunner for Doctor Who?”

Film and Television: Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

Now, at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, Television Auteurs will offer a comprehensive look at the people making television in a book which I hope will prove to be as important to the still-evolving attention being paid to small screen auteurism as was Sarris’ for the movies. As the above schema illustrates, the history of our understanding of television is essentially replicating, fifty years behind, the pattern of how we have thought about cinema decade by decade. The time is thus ripe for Television Auteurs.

The book will be made up two parts:

Part I: a comprehensive introduction to the subject of television authorship, followed by commissioned 5,000 word essays on the key TV auteur roles: the writer, the director, the producer, the showrunner.

Part II: Well-researched, insightful, definitive 1,500 word concise portraits of 100 key makers of television in the US and the UK, identifying the individual’s major career accomplishments and establishing his/her relevance and significance. Assigned contributors will be given very specific marching orders spelling out expectations for their contributions.

Go here to find a Power Point slide presentation of some of the small screen creators and the television series/shows for which they are best known under consideration for inclusion, but this gallery is not assumed to be comprehensive, and the editor will entertain other possibilities.

Contact David Lavery [david.lavery@gmail.com] if you have any questions or wish to seek an assignment. If your work is not already familiar to the editor, please supply a brief biography as well.

David Lavery is professor of English and popular culture at Middle Tennessee State University and the author/editor/co-editor of numerous essays and sixteen books, published or forthcoming, on television including Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses (I. B. Tauris/St. Martin's, 2009) and volumes on such television series as Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, Lost, Deadwood, Seinfeld, My So Called Life, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica. He co-edits the e-journal Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and is one of the founding editors of Critical Studies in Television: Scholarly Studies of Small Screen Fictions. He has lectured around the world on the subject of television.