10 TV Shows That Survived After Changing Showrunners

One of the longest-running TV shows of all time, Law & Order: SVU, is set to have a new showrunner in Season 24. David Graziano takes over after Warren Leight announced that he was stepping down from his role. Leight had served as showrunner in 8 seasons of the popular NBC procedural drama.

Fans will now be crossing their fingers since most of the time, a change in showrunner normally signals impending doom. Many popular shows have gone on to be canceled after a new overall decision-maker was appointed. However, some have either improved greatly or maintained the same quality.


Smallville (2001 – 2011)

Stream On Hulu

Tom Welling as Clark Kent and Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in Smallville

Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the original showrunners of the Superman origin story departed after Season 7 with no explanation, They were replaced by Brian Peterson, Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, and Kelly Souders.

It could be argued that the show’s quality changed for the better after the showrunner swap. More superheroes were included and there were some unforgettable guest stars too. Moreover, before the departure of Gough and Millar, none of the previous seasons had averaged a score of more than 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. When the new team took over, all the remaining seasons scored above 70%, with Season 9 even managing 100%. Viewership figures remained mostly the same, with the coming-of-age show averaging around 3.5 million viewers per season (via TV By The Numbers).

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994)

Stream On Paramount+

Serious creator Gene Roddenberry stepped down after Season 2 due to health reasons. Michael Piller then became the new steward for the remainder of the sci-fi series.

Piller’s tenure came with the addition of more exciting characters as well as new and unique technology to make the series feel even more modern. The quality improved greatly too and evidence of that lies in the braces. The show received 58 Emmy nominations during its run, 43 of which came during Piller’s tenure (via Emmys).

The Walking Dead (2010 – 2022)

Stream On AMC+

Danai Gurira as Michonne and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead

The AMC series had not one but 3 showrunner changes. Frank Darabont was axed before Season 2 and was replaced by Glen Mazzara and then Scott Dimple. Angela Kang would then take over for the remaining seasons.

Despite the high showrunner turnover, the series has continued to be popular, and at 11 seasons, it’s one of the longest-running dramas. It could also be argued that the changes in stewardship have led to refreshing storylines. Zombie culture is a niche topic that can get stale quickly but that hasn’t happened because the new showrunners have always come up with unique ideas. The numbers reflect that too, with the Season 11 premiere having the highest ever debut on AMC+ (via variety).

The West Wing (1999 – 2006)

Stream On HBO Max

Joe Quincy in The West Wing

Showrunner Aaron Sorkin found himself in a feud with Warner Bros Television executives after Season 4 so he chose to leave. John Wells was then put in charge.

Sorkin’s departure had a slight effect o viewership numbers, which dropped from 13.5 million to 8.1 million (via ABC). However, there wasn’t a big difference in the grade. The political drama continued to average around 15 Emmy nominations per season. It also ended on a high, with Season7’s 92% Rotten Tomatoes score being only second to Season 1’s 96% score.

Supernatural (2005 – 2020)

Stream On Amazon Prime Video

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as Sam and Dean Winchester in Supernatural Season 13

Eric Kripke is currently famous for being the showrunner of one of the best superhero TV shows, Amazon Prime Videos The Boysbut he started as the creator and showrunner for supernatural. After 5 seasons, he felt the story was complete but since the network insisted on keeping the project going, he chose to leave the task to others.

That the drama continued for 10 more seasons after Kripke’s departure is proof of how healthy its run was. Even though Kripke’s storylines were some of the best, the audience’s appetite never waned after he left. Ratings continued to average around 8.5 million viewers per season for the entire series run (via Ratings Graph).

Veep (2012 – 2019)

Stream On HBO Max

Selina Meyer in Veep

Armando Iannucci left after Season 7, citing a busy schedule and a tiresome commute between London and Baltimore as the reasons. David Mandel then took over.

Iannucci’s formula worked so well because of his long-term career as a satirist. Luckily Mandel didn’t try to make things too different. By maintaining the same formula the comedy continued to average 8.6 per season. (through Nielsen Ratings). All of the seasons where Mandel was in charge also have a score of 94% and above on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Simpsons (1989 – Present)

Stream On Hulu

Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons

One of the best TV animated shows of all time has had over 8 different showrunners since it premiered. Recently, Al Jean has been the person in charge.

There are no plans for the sitcom to end anytime soon, which not only confirms that the demand is still there but also that the network is profiting heavily from it. The show’s healthy run can also be attributed to the fact that Jean has been kept in charge longer than any other showrunner. And since he was also around during one of the early seasons (Season 2) he knows exactly what made things tick.

24 (2001 – 2014)

Stream On Disney+

24 white house jack bauer

Serious creator Joel Surnow decided to step down after Season 5, the most critically acclaimed season. Howard Gordon then took over for the remainder of the series.

According to critics, there was a slight drop in quality during Gordon’s time in charge since all of Surnow’s seasons had scored above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes yet Gordon’s highest was 82%. Still, the fan interest was there, which explains why the series was revived two years after its final season. In addition to that, a spin-off was ordered too.

Seinfeld (1989 – 1998)

Stream On Netflix

Seinfeld season 4 the airport

Before moving on to start his show and arguably one of the best sitcoms ever made, Larry David oversaw all things on Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld then assumed his duties.

It’s one of the cases where a showrunner’s departure wasn’t unceremonious. David continued to portray the character of Steinbrenner after his departure. And while some fans believe his seasons were the best, the numbers prove otherwise. After Seinfeld took over, viewership figures skyrocketed, with the last two seasons averaging 37 million and 38 million respectively (via EW).

Community (2009 – 2015)

Stream On Hulu

Jonathan Banks as Buzz Hickey in his office on Community

Showrunner Dan Harmon was booted after Season 3 for apparently being difficult to work with. He was replaced by David Guarascio and Moses Port before making a surprise return for Season 5.

The rehiring of Harmon means his replacement didn’t do a particularly great job. Nevertheless, they didn’t sink the ship to the ocean bed. Things remained fairly normal, with the awards continuing to trickle in and viewership figures averaging 3.7 million (via TV By The Numbers).

NEXT: 10 TV Shows That Changed Their Cast After The Pilot Episode

Jon Snow Sequel Can Deliver On 1 Of The Oldest Game Of Thrones Theories

About The Author

Leave a Comment