Did anyone else have a twinge of fear at this credit on the second season of Mad Men?

Consulting Producer: Marti Noxon

This being the same Marti Noxon who was promoted to showrunner for the UPN seasons of Buffy (and wrote “Wrecked“), a show she memorably described as “Party of Five with monsters”; bombed out as showrunner of Brothers and Sisters and was replaced by Greg Berlanti before the show went on the air, ran the first season of Private Practice and created the show Point Pleasant.

Now, actually, as long as Marti Noxon is not running a show, she is quite harmless. She was, after all, a writer for Buffy during the good seasons. And a “consulting producer” is the most harmless of all, since it’s essentially a catch-all title given to a well-regarded writer who works on the show but isn’t on the full-time staff. (The term for this kind of writer used to be “creative consultant.”) Still it’s a bit like the feeling you get upon hearing that the man who wrecked Trek, Fred Freiberger, has been hired to write for a show. (And yes, I’ve made the Noxon-Freiberger comparison before. It’s unavoidable.)

How many TV producers have gotten such a bad reputation among fans that their very name can create a sense of horror? Noxon, after Buffy; Freiberger, after the third season of Star Trek; Mike Scully, who ran The Simpsons during the jockey-trolls years. There must be others, but those are the ones who come to mind. Bad showrunners tend to be well-respected by their colleagues including the staffs of the shows that they ran into the ground (Scully has consulted on The Simpsons for years and worked on the Simpsons movie), but that’s one of those things that matters more to insiders than outsiders. To the outsider, the showrunner’s job is to deliver good episodes, and a bad showrunner is one who takes over a good show and starts delivering bad episodes.

(And yes, I am aware that there has been some pro-Noxon revisionism going on lately. I put this in a class with putting Bowie Kuhn in the Hall of Fame. Just because somebody’s reputation gets rehabilitated doesn’t mean it should be.)

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