10 Contenders Poised to Take Over Peak TV

Move over Greg Berlanti. Make room Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy. These TV superstars are primed to inherit the throne.

by | June 29, 2018 | Comments

TV producer extraordinaire Greg Berlanti will have 14 series airing in the 2018-19 TV season, blowing past the last record of 10 (which he had previously tied with Aaron Spelling and Jerry Bruckheimer).

The creator of The CW’s Arrowverse superhero series — and many, many more, including the upcoming God Friended Me on CBS, Netflix’s dark Sabrina the Teenage Witch series, and Lifetime’s creepy stalker drama You — is the latest creator to sign a high-profile, big-money deal: $300 million deal to work with Warner Bros. Television through 2024. He joins the ranks of Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes, who each signed deals with Netflix worth an estimated $300 million and $100 million respectively. But while the trio are making headlines for their TV empires, there are plenty of other people working hard to make their names in the peak TV era.

There are dozens of TV producers, directors, and stars who are bringing quality television to your TVs and computer screens. They might not all be marquee names, but they are all bringing unparalleled creative contributions to television. These peak TV creators are making waves in the industry, potentially setting themselves up for the next big “Berlanti money”–sized deal.

Rotten Tomatoes has rounded up a list of these tours-de-force — 10 among many multi-hyphenate writers, producers, directors, and more who are shaping peak TV as we know it.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag (Amazon Prime Video)
(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

In addition to appearing in a Star Wars movie (no big deal!), the woman also known as Solo‘s sarcastic droid L3-37 is a playwright who created two recent peak TV sensations: BBC America’s spy thriller Killing Eve and Amazon’s dark dramedy Fleabag (in which she also starred). Season 2 of Fleabag is on deck (it films in London this summer), and Killing Eve scored an early renewal (and is a serious contender for award consideration). She’s also got a pilot in the works at HBO.

Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele at the 90th Oscars(r) broadcasts live on Oscar(r) SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2018 (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

The Oscar winner already has a wide-ranging background: He went from one half of a respected sketch-comedy duo (Key & Peele) to writer and director of one of 2017’s most talked-about movies: his Oscar hit Get Out. It makes sense, then, that the projects Peele is working on next adhere to no specific genre — or even medium. He’s got scripted Nazi drama The Hunt and documentary series Lorena (about the life of Lorena Bobbitt) in the works at Amazon, along with a new deal at Amazon Studios that will see him produce more eclectic content for the streaming service. YouTube also announced that it has given a straight-to-series order for Weird City, a sci-fi and comedy anthology series that will debut on the streamer’s Premium service in 2019.

Nahnatchka Khan

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Writer Nahnatchka Khan attends the Tribeca Daring Women Summit during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

The woman behind the beloved, short-lived dark comedy Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (featuring Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek as a d-bag version of Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek) and the beloved (and blessedly not-at-all-short-lived) family sitcom Fresh Off the Boat has had a busy past few development seasons. In 2018, she developed a new take on the classic series The Greatest American Hero (starring a woman of color, New Girl star Hannah Simone) that ABC ultimately didn’t pick up. The year before, it was a comedy about former NBA star Jalen Rose, which also ultimately didn’t move forward. Up next: directing FOTB star Randall Park and writer Ali Wong in 2019 Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe.

Hiro Murai

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 05: Co-executive producer/director Hiro Murai of the television show Atlanta speaks onstage during the FOX/FX Networks portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 5, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

In Donald Glover’s acceptance speech for his 2017 directing Emmy, he credited frequent collaborator Hiro Murai for helping shape the look of his FX series Atlanta and for helping teach him how to direct. The Japan-born director-producer came to TV after a successful career directing music videos (including, most recently, Childish Gambino’s provocative “This Is America“), and has helmed episodes of Legion, Snowfall, Barry, and more. Now, Murai has his own deal with FX Productions to develop and produce new projects.

Lena Waithe

LENA WAITHE as Helen in Warner Bros. Pictures', Amblin Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' action adventure "READY PLAYER ONE," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Photo by Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures)

So far, 2018 has been a culmination of sorts for comedy writer and actress Lena Waithe. In January, she won an Emmy for writing the one of the most memorable episodes of Netflix’s relationship comedy Master of None, “Thanksgiving,” in which her character came out to her mother. Showtime premiered her series set on the South side of Chicago, The Chi. If that weren’t enough, she even had enough time for a guest role on This Is Us. In March, she co-starred in Stephen Spielberg’s Ready Player One, and in April she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine (the first queer black woman ever) shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz and made Time’s list of the 100 Most Influential People with a tribute written by California Senator Kamala Harris. Put simply, she’s busy — and shows no signs of slowing down. She’s writing and producing a TBS comedy called Twenties about three black women in Hollywood and has a development deal that will, in part, help champion underserved, emerging voices.

Marti Noxon

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Dietland Executive Producer and Showrunner Marti Noxon attends the AMC Summit at Public Hotel on June 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for AMC)
(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for AMC)

With a number of TV’s most iconic series under her belt — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men, Glee, and many more — Marti Noxon has spent the past few years helping create a new wave of feminist series, including Lifetime’s UnREAL, AMC’s Dietland, HBO’s upcoming Sharp Objects. Author Gillian Flynn, who wrote the Sharp Objects and Gone Girl novels, noted in The Atlantic that the shows Noxon is making now allow women to be angry — or violent, or sad, or whatever emotion they want to be. “The TV world has been packed with antiheroes forever,” she said. “Look at Sopranos, look at Breaking Bad. No one ever questions, ‘Are those men likable?’ Finally, in TV now, we’re getting to the same place for women. It doesn’t matter if they’re likable. Are they interesting?”

Ilene Chaiken

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 08: Ilene Chaiken attends the FOX 2017 Summer TCA Tour after party on August 8, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The creator of Showtime’s The L Word is currently an executive producer on two of television’s biggest shows: hip-hop soap Empire and dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale, which also took home Emmy awards for Outstanding Drama Series, for lead actress Elisabeth Moss, and in five more categories. She stepped back as showrunner of Empire to develop two series for Fox (which were ultimately not picked up), and there’s an L Word reboot in the works at Showtime.

Mark and Jay Duplass

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 26: Creator/executive producer Mark Duplass and creator/executive producer Jay Duplass of 'Room 104' speak onstage during the HBO portion of the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The indie film darlings-turned-TV and film powerhouses have created multiple series for HBO (Togetherness, anthology series Room 104), produced two of 2018’s most-talked-about documentary series for Netflix (Wild Wild Country and Evil Genius), and also find time to act (most recently: together in Togetherness and The Mindy Project, Jay in Transparent and Search Party, Mark in Goliath and Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber). The duo just inked a new Netflix movie deal, the first of which is a movie starring Mark and Ray Romano that they filmed under the radar.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon in Wild (20th Century Fox)
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

In addition to her Oscar-winning acting career, Witherspoon also has her own clothing line (Draper James), a book club, and a production company, Hello Sunshine, that champions female-centric content (Oscar nominees Wild and Gone Girl, HBO limited series sensation Big Little Lies — all based on books written by women and featuring complicated female characters). Big Little Lies season 2 is on its way at HBO, she’s producing a limited series based on her book club pick Little Fires Everywhere (with Kerry Washington) at Hulu, and she has multiple projects in the works at Apple: She’ll produce and star alongside Jennifer Aniston in a show about the behind-the-scenes drama of morning television, and she’s producing both a true-crime drama starring Octavia Spencer and a comedy series that was set to star Kristen Wiig (until the SNL vet had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict with the Wonder Woman sequel).

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