A Monday evening tea at Saybrook College featured Michael Rauch, showrunner and executive producer of the new CBS drama “Instinct,” whose main character is the first gay male lead to anchor an hour-long network television show.
Rauch spoke in the Biggs House of Saybrook College with a moderator, Aaron Tracy, instructor of the Art of TV Drama course. Although not required, many of the students in attendance were also enrolled in the class. Undergrads absorbed Rauch’s anecdotes concerning his career and work style before he opened up to questions from the audience.
“Aaron Tracy, who I have great respect for and like very much, asked me to do this, and I love giving back, and I love anyone who’s interested in going into TV as their profession since it’s the world I live in and the world I love,” Rauch told the News.
“Instinct” is based on a novel by James Patterson. According to Tracy, Rauch’s job as a showrunner in television means that he essentially fills the role a director does in film; the showrunner is responsible for everything from rating processes to physical production and the writing of the show.
Rauch said he is not sure how audiences will react to the premise and characters of the show, given that it features a gay lead. Rauch said the pilot tested well overall, except for the two moments in which a gay husband was on the screen. When a pilot is tested, the audience uses dials to monitor their reactions.
“It’s something that we’re really excited to do because we feel like it’s time,” Rauch said. “We’re not playing it like it’s a big deal because it shouldn’t be, but hopefully the audiences will love the characters and love the writing and love the premise and go along with that, and the sexuality of the lead character won’t matter as much.
Still, Rauch and Tracy dedicated most of the talk to outlining Rauch’s professional experience. Toward the beginning of his career, Rauch said that Diane Keaton was the first director to option a script he wrote.
Since then, Rauch has worked on a variety of projects, including “Royal Pains,” “Life is Wild,” and “Beautiful People.” After becoming established, he met people in the business, making it easier to get scripts to the right figures. Still, he stressed the importance of continuing to develop solid content for audiences.
“No matter how many people you know, if your material isn’t good, you’re not going to go anywhere, so the pressure to keep working and working hard and trying to produce quality work never goes away no matter how many people you know,” Rauch said.
Tracy, the moderator, became friends with Rauch through Rauch’s work on the show “Royal Pains.” Tracy also works in the television industry, having written on shows such as “Law and Order: SVU,” “Fairly Legal,” and “Sequestered.” Mainly, though, Rauch works in the development of television shows. Just this past year, he worked as writer and co-executive producer for his own show, “The Tap,” which aired on USA Network. The show takes place at Yale in the year 1969, the year the college went coed.
“We’re living in a bubble a little bit just reading these scripts from afar. When you actually get to meet the person and hear from the person who’s behind these scripts, you gain so much,” Tracy said. “It’s not mysterious anymore. It becomes something manageable, something real, something you feel like maybe you can do.”
Chason Hall ’18 attended the talk with members of his Art of TV Drama class and said it taught him about the growth of the television industry.
“The most illuminating thing about the talk was when he compared New York and Los Angeles’s television industries,” Hall said.
The discussion marked Saybrook’s third tea of the year.
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