Trust is always a tricky thing to earn. It’s even trickier when you’re talking about the trust between a creator and the fans of whatever it is they create. One wrong move, one misstep in how a character’s arc is handled, one bad interview—and that trust can be easily damaged, if not completely destroyed.
However, there are still those creators we trust—the ones whose beliefs about what makes good literature, films, or television align so closely to ours that we seem to nod along with every interview they give. Those are the creators we’ll follow to the ends of the Earth, trying new books, movies, or shows we might never have been interested in had we not known they were created by someone we trust.
That’s exactly what happened with me and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I don’t regularly watch a lot of comedies. I wasn’t the world’s biggest Andy Samberg fan. The idea of a comedy set in a police precinct wasn’t something I knew I’d love immediately. However, it had Mike Schur’s name attached to it. And I trust Mike Schur.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done nothing but increase the level of respect I have for and trust I have in Mike Schur. When people act surprised by the show’s diverse characters, its inherent warmth, its successful risk-taking in terms of its central romance, and its well-developed female characters, all I can do is smile and say I’m not surprised at all. This is what Mike Schur does. This is who he is. And this is why I trust him.
Schur was obviously a very big part of The Office, but he earned my trust as the heart and soul of my favorite television show of all time: Parks and Recreation. That show never let me down—not once. And it was all because Schur dared to embrace a concept that so many other showrunners seem afraid of: Stable, healthy, and happy relationships can form the backbone of a great television show. Whether it was friendships or romances, the relationships on Parks and Rec weren’t toys to take apart and put back together to create conflict; they were treated with care. And that’s because Schur is a bit of a romantic, which is probably why I trust him so much.
Schur has stated numerous times that he doesn’t believe in mean-spirited comedy, and that’s clear in his shows. His characters build each other up, and when they do act like jerks toward each other, they admit it and apologize. That may not sound revolutionary in the real world, but in the world of TV comedy, it’s still something that sets Schur’s shows apart from the pack.
I love when showrunners believe in something as strongly as Mike Schur believes in creating comedies about good people in stable, loving relationships (both romantic and platonic). It makes it easy for me to trust that—even when conflict happens or things look bleak for characters or relationships I love—things are going to be okay. I don’t need that reassurance for every show I watch (I’d never ask for it from The Americans, for example—that’s a show with showrunners I trust for entirely different reasons.), but I’m someone who doesn’t love to feel anxious every time I watch TV. Sometimes I just want to know that the show I’m investing in is going to make me happy when all is said and done.
That’s exactly what I believe every time I watch Once Upon a Time. Even when things are at their darkest (quite literally in this season’s case), I have complete faith that the characters will emerge from their struggles stronger and happier than ever. That hope isn’t blind; it’s something I have because I trust the show’s creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.
Like Schur, Kitsis and Horowitz aren’t afraid of creating things like numerous, well-developed female characters and strong marriages between equals. They also believe in optimistic television, stories that ultimately makes you feel inspired and hopeful. There’s a place for pessimistic television, but a show about fairytales isn’t it. And I love that Kitsis and Horowitz know that and respect what their viewers want to see: stories about all kinds of love overcoming all kinds of obstacles.
I don’t like feeling cynical; I’m a hopeful person who likes feeling that way. And I think that’s why I trust Schur, Kitsis, and Horowitz as much as I do. They’ve created shows that are completely, unashamedly hopeful. There’s nothing cynical about Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or Once Upon a Time. Those shows wear their hearts on their sleeves and aren’t afraid to focus on building people up instead of tearing them down, and it takes a brave showrunner to create that kind of television in today’s media landscape. Those three showrunners have created shows where warmth and goodness are prized far above “edginess” or coolness, and that’s how I like my television.
Television is a matter of trust. With more options than ever, it’s easier than ever to just jump ship when a showrunner has lost our trust or to refrain from starting a show because when don’t trust its creator. So which showrunners (or creators of other kinds of media) do you trust with your fangirl (or fanboy) heart? And how did they earn your trust?