Is good TV the product of 100 people collaborating harmoniously or one authoritative voice working his or her will over supportive underlings?
It was one of the issues raised at The Envelope's Emmy Show Runners Round Table, which featured Fellowes, Willimon, Scott M. Gimple of "The Walking Dead," Michelle Ashford of "Masters of Sex" and Joel Fields of "The Americans" in conversation with Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara.
While you can learn a lot from a TV writer in a one-on-one interview, you can learn even more when he or she is brought together with several peers to talk about their work. Fellowes, whose "Downton Abbey" has become a huge success for PBS, sees TV as the product of a singular vision — his — brought to the screen by an army of creative people working for him.
But Willimon, whose "House of Cards" earned Netflix multiple Emmy nominations and three wins, relishes the idea of collaborating with many people in order to fully realize the vision.
"The collaborative aspect of working on a television show is totally different than on a film," Willimon said. "You have an ongoing dialogue with the other writers in the room, if you have a room. You have an ongoing dialogue with the actors. You can absorb what they're doing in front of the camera.... Several hundred heads are better than one."
But Fellowes disagreed. "I don't think several hundred heads are better than one," he immediately responded.