Top 10 Female TV Showrunners

Script written by Q.V. Hough These are the modern masters of televised dramedy. Join MsMojo as we countdown our picks for the Top Top 10 Female TV Showrunners. For this list, we’re focusing on women that have either created their own television series, or moved up the ranks to work as a showrunner or executive producer. Some of our picks are the single driving forces, while others have worked hand-in-hand with others as co-showrunners. Special thanks to our user smizetillyoumakeit for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool at

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Top 10 Female TV Showrunners

These are the modern masters of televised dramedy. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Female TV Showrunners.

For this list, we’re focusing on women that have either created their own television series, or moved up the ranks to work as a showrunner or executive producer. Some of our picks are the single driving forces, while others have worked hand-in-hand with others as co-showrunners.

#10: Amy Sherman-Palladino
“Gilmore Girls” (2000-07)

Once a writer for Roseanne Barr’s self-titled series in the 90s, this woman learned the industry inside out before setting off on her own. Inspired by the small town ways of Connecticut, Amy Sherman-Palladino conceptualized a witty, pop culture-friendly narrative, and the result was “Gilmore Girls”, which premiered in late 2000. By guiding the production and serving as the music supervisor, Amy enhanced her dynamic characters through her own love of iconic songs. And along with husband Daniel, she breathed new life into CW programming with fresh, fast-paced dialogue and tracking shots. Season after season, “Gilmore Girls” influenced a younger generation though Amy’s exuberant creative vision.

#9: Liz Meriwether
“New Girl” (2011-)

After its September 2011 premiere, the FOX comedy “New Girl” gained an immediate following thanks to its quirky lead and eccentric male characters. And it was Liz Meriwether, the writer of the 2011 film “No Strings Attached,” that first sold the network on the idea. Touching on the comedic yet somewhat depressing ideals of early 30-something individuals, Meriwether demonstrates a brilliant understanding of millennial issues, but presents them by way of a slightly older group of “adorkable” personas. The “New Girl” aesthetic showcases individuals that are just unique enough to balance the line between self-aware outcasts and self-aware superstars.

#8: I. Marlene King
“Pretty Little Liars” (2010-)

As the writer of the 1995 film “Now and Then,” this woman depicted the essence of the adolescent experience. Nearly 15 years later, I. Marlene King developed an ABC Family teen drama, “Pretty Little Liars,” that would polarize critics, yet ultimately become a guilty pleasure for both men and women alike. It’s not your average drama of innocence and sheltered perspectives, but rather one that’s a little more provocative than some parents would prefer. Whereas previous generations turned to different networks, King’s exhilarating murder mystery established the channel now known as Freeform as a progressive force in primetime TV.

#7: Mindy Kaling
“The Mindy Project” (2012-)

Originally known as the pop culture-loving Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s “The Office”, this Indian-American turned heads as the innovative showrunner of her own self-titled series. Initially rejected by NBC, Mindy Kaling’s single-camera comedy has provoked pop culture discussions about feminism and race, with its showrunner understanding the limitations of a half-hour sitcom. In a world of amateur critics quick to point out the negative, Kaling relies more on personal ideals rather than being relegated to what she’s supposed to depict. Like the title says, it’s “The Mindy Project” and Kaling’s not afraid to experiment with progressive comedy.

#6: Michelle King
“The Good Wife” (2009-16)

After a short-lived drama on ABC entitled “In Justice,” this woman took a close look at modern media and the way “good wives” are portrayed. In collaboration with her creative partner and husband Robert, Michelle King assembled a brilliant ensemble cast to address the American political system and the familial drama that unfolds. And while many showrunners inject their personality and youthful dialogue into the characters, King got expertise from an array of notable producers such as Ridley Scott to perfect the look and feel of “The Good Wife”. As a result, the judicial series transformed from a cleverly written drama to something much more effective, all due to its tight focus and authenticity.

#5: Jenji Kohan
“Weeds” (2005-12), “Orange Is the New Black” (2013-)

Educated at Columbia University and raised by two distinguished writers, this woman was groomed to succeed in show business. For Jenji Kohan, her first writing gig came via “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but it was her landmark Showtime series “Weeds” that caught the attention of both executives and liberal-thinking viewers. By pinpointing the evolving moral code of a 21st century society and the issues faced by modern women, Kohan opened the gates for more series of the same style. And with her Netflix production, “Orange Is the New Black,” she’s left her imprint on remote controls across the world, as the very way in which we consume TV has forever changed.

#4: Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner
“Girls” (2012-)

Upon the release of Lena Dunham’s 2010 indie film, “Tiny Furniture,” the industry took note of her obvious talent. So, HBO not only made an offer to Dunham for a look at Brooklynite 20-somethings, but also hired Jenni Konner to guide the production. And well, the co-showrunners have proven themselves fully capable of addressing taboo subjects, or even taboo visuals for that matter. With the arrival of “Girls” on HBO, both Dunham and Konner pushed the boundaries and challenged even millennials to think a little harder about their role in society. This pair may not have all the answers, but they’re asking questions that previously went unaddressed.

#3: Julie Plec
“The Vampire Diaries” (2009-), “The Originals” (2013-)

Formerly a co-producer of the “Scream” movie franchise and one of the executives behind ABC Family’s “Kyle XY,” this woman ultimately brought vampires back to primetime TV. By adapting L.J. Smith’s literary series for The CW, Julie Plec capitalized on pop culture trends without falling victim to usual clichés. A collaboration with “Scream” writer and “Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson, “The Vampire Diaries” beholds vampire camp and compelling character relationships that changed the game for network TV. With a background in both cinematic productions and small screen writing, Julie paid her dues and delivered once again as showrunner for the show’s successful spinoff, “The Originals.”

#2: Tina Fey
“30 Rock” (2006-13), “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (2015-)

As an alum of the Chicago improv group “The Second City,” this comedian further developed her skills as the head writer for “Saturday Night Live”. And nearly 10 years later, Tina Fey moved on to produce and star in a brilliant meta-commentary about the behind-the-scene nature of a variety show. With “30 Rock” becoming a second home for the extended SNL family, Fey upped the ante with her sharp writing and invaluable knowledge about the industry. And so, when Ellie Kemper emerged on another NBC hit, “The Office,” Fey wisely enlisted the comedic actress for a retro yet timely Netflix original. As the showrunner for both “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Tina has become one of the most powerful and admired women in TV.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Michelle Ashford
“Masters of Sex” (2013-)

Kerry Ehrin
“Bates Motel” (2013-)

Carol Mendelsohn & Pam Veasey
“CSI” Franchise (2000-)

Melissa Rosenberg
“Jessica Jones” (2015-)

Marti Noxon & Sarah Gertrude Shapiro
“UnREAL” (2015-)

Stephanie Savage
“Gossip Girl” (2007-12), “Hart of Dixie” (2011-15)

#1: Shonda Rhimes
“Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-), “Scandal” (2012-), “How to Get Away with Murder” (2014-)

Though certain female showrunners have narrowed in on evolving trends in network TV, this woman has proven herself to be the preeminent master of addictive drama. With an acute understanding of the human element, Shonda Rhimes initially found a place at ABC with the landmark series “Grey’s Anatomy,” and not only do her characters feel like real people, but their transparency endears them to modern audiences. Whether it’s “Private Practice,” “How to Get Away with Murder” or the sensation that is “Scandal,” Rhimes doesn’t seem content with typical tropes. Her characters’ striking personalities and experiences reach far beyond the page, and even more, Rhimes seems in touch with viewers who consume her remarkable dramas.

So, do you agree with our picks? Who is your favorite female TV showrunner? For more awesome Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.

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