10 Of Today’s Best Television Showrunners And Their Embarrassing Early Writing Gigs

By: 01.28.13  •  38 Comments

Greg Garcia — Garcia is the creator and writer behind Raising Hope NBC’s Jason Lee comedy, My Name Is Earl, and Yes Dear, quirky comedies known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Given how sentimental those sitcoms can often get, it’s not terribly surprising that Garcia got his start on the cheesy 90’s sitcom Family Matters. Garcia also once worked as the board operator on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show. (Fun Fact: Back in his days on My Name is Earl, Garcia also engaged in an ongoing feud with Alec Baldwin, calling him “psychotic”).

Alex Gansa — Gansa, the guy behind Showtime’s Emmy-award winning Homeland, as well as one of the major writers on Fox’s 24, also spent some years on The X-Files. But before that, he was a staff writer on Spenser for Hire, an OK cop show starring Robert Urich that hasn’t held up well at all, and Beauty and the Beast, the terrible CBS drama starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, recently remade on The CW.

Terence Winter — Terence Winter, the current showrunner and creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, was another one of the major contributors to The Sopranos, but before that, Winter bounced around as a staff writer on a series of not very good shows, like Diagnosis Murder and Xena: Warrior Princess (no offense). Perhaps more embarrassing was his first project ever, as a writer on Cosby Mysteries, Bill Cosby’s first post-Cosby Show role (also starring Mos Def) that People magazine called “a flimsy vehicle.”

Graham Yost — Yost has bounced around the industry, getting his first big break as the screenwriter for Speed, although Christian Slater’s Hard Rain a few years later effectively ended his feature writing career. Fortunately, Yost was able to get involved with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks on Band of Brothers and The Pacific (which is why you’ll see so many of those guys show up on Justified). Yost was also a staff writer on Fox’s underappreciated Herman’s Head, but he got his start on Hey Dude, a not terrible show only “embarrassing” because of the wild contrast between the Nickelodeon kid’s programming and the harder-edged work he’s done on the World War II dramas and Justified.

Dan Harmon — Before becoming the genius behind Community and the screenwriter of Monster House, Harmon was the creator of the television network/website Channel 101, which was responsible for — among other things — Computerman starring Jack Black, which looks terrible. On the plus side, he was also the creator of Heat Vision and Jack</i>, a pilot directed by Ben Stiller and starring Jack Black and Owen Wilson that was never picked up, but gained a cult following (honestly, it looks pretty terrible, too).

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