SMASH Creator-Ex Showrunner Tells Us Why She Left

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…and again and again. Television writing is not for the faint-hearted. But don’t take our word for it, read what the creator of NBC’s SMASH has to say:

Former ‘Smash’ Showrunner Reveals Why She Exited – by Philiana Ng

Smash creator Theresa Rebeck is shedding light on her exit from the NBC musical series.

After launching to critical acclaim (and more than 11 million viewers), critics cooled on subsequent episodes of Smash — which also saw ratings drop to 6 million by the end of the season. In March, Rebeck stepped down as showrunner from the hourlong series and was replaced by Gossip Girl executive producer Josh Safran for season two in April. (Four featured actors were also let go in the shake-up.)

According to Rebeck, things took a turn for the worst on Smash — about the making of a Broadway musical — when producers started urging characters to behave in ways she thought didn’t make sense.

“One of the points of contention last year was that the network thinks they have the right to say to the writer of the show, ‘We don’t want her to do this. We want her to do this,’ ” Rebeck said in an interview with the New York Observer. “And I would sometimes say back to them, ‘She would never do that.’ And they’d look at me like I was crazy, and I’d be like, ‘Nope, it’s not crazy, it’s just who the character is.’ ”

She added: “You have to respect who the character is. It has its own internal truth and you can’t betray that. And if you don’t betray that, it will not betray you. There is this sort of sense that if you don’t f— with the muse — if you don’t f— with the muse, the muse will stand by you.”

Rebeck believed that a showrunner should have the ability to add to the foundation to a show, likening the job to that of an architect. Through her Smash experience, Rebeck noted that she and the network had contrasting opinions on what a showrunner ultimately has power over.

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All this brings to mind the unavoidable question: If showrunners don’t run the shows, who does? Should the title be reserved for network execs only?