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The Ultimate Greg Berlanti Ranking

He's had a hand in dozens of films and TV shows, from Dawson's Creek to Love, Simon, but which reign supreme?
  • From Dawson's Creek to the Arrowverse, You, and Love, Simon, Greg Berlanti has left his mark across the media landscape.
    From Dawson's Creek to the Arrowverse, You, and Love, Simon, Greg Berlanti has left his mark across the media landscape.

    Mega-producer Greg Berlanti is, for all intents and purposes, the king of modern-day media. On TV, his prolificity is unmatched — this past season, he had 21 live-action scripted originals on the air across seven outlets. He's also had a hand in his fair share of feature films. With the last two decades so dominated by Berlanti (whther it be as writer, director, or, increasingly, producer), thoughts inevitably to drift towards what's the best of the bunch.

    This week, the latest film from the Greg Berlanti production wing, Unpregnant, premieres on HBO Max. In the film, Primetimer favorite Haley Lu Richardson finds herself unhappily pregnant and, due to restrictive anti-choice laws, has to drive out of state — along with her former best friend (Barbie Ferreira) — to get an abortion. Berlanti is producing the film for writer/director Rachel Lee Goldenberg.

    All told, 39 films and TV shows — previous to Unpregnant — have had Berlanti's name attached to them. Some have been great, some terrible, some gone before their time, some gone at exactly the right time. Quite a few are still going strong on our television screens. The following is our Ultimate Berlanti Ranking, where we determine once and for all which Berlanti projects reign supreme.

    39. Life As We Know It

    Year: 2010
    Role: Director

    Berlanti's first directorial effort in a decade, this Katherine Heigl/Josh Duhamel rom-com came with a surprisingly high concept: Holly (Heigl) and Eric (Duhamel) hate each other, but when their mutual couple friends die tragically, they're both named legal guardians of their infant child, who they now have to raise together. It's very "car accident judgment leads to man being forced to be someone's butler" on the in-show Seinfeld pilot. It's also not a very good romantic comedy.

    38. Wrath of the Titans

    Year: 2012
    Role: "Story by" credit

    Berlanti was merely a co-writer/consultant on this sequel to the Clash of the Titans remake, and while it's hard to say how much better it might've been if Berlanti had more control, the actual finished product was an uninspired effort, even for a movie that stars Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades.

    37. Deception

    Year: 2018
    Role: Executive Producer

    This was a mid-season ABC series about a scandal-plagued magician (Jack Cutmore-Scott) who begins using his expertise to help the FBI solve crimes. It was a very CBS-like premise, which may be why it only lasted 13 episodes on ABC.

    36. Golden Boy

    Year: 2013
    Role: Executive Producer

    Remember the era of Theo James? That one episode of Downton Abbey was so great, and then he was in the Divergent movies, a series so strong that it would never just die on the vine after plans to split the final installment into two parts were scrapped and then the final one-part movie bombed hard.Theo James! This was the TV show where Theo James played the youngest NYPD commissioner in history. It did not make it past its first season.

    35. The Tomorrow People

    Years: 2013-14
    Role: Co-creator/writer/producer

    How about this for a premise: a select group of people around the world develop super-human abilities (like telekinesis, telepathy, and teleportation), as part of the next evolutionary leap of humanity. No, not the X-Men, this was totally different: These were the Tomorrow People! The series, full of hot young stars like Robbie Amell and Peyton List, was a remake of a British show, but while it lasted a full season on The CW, it wasn't picked up for a second.

    34. The Mysteries of Laura

    Years: 2014-16
    Role: Executive Producer

    Debra Messing played a police detective and a mom. Both. At. The. Same. Time.

    33. God Friended Me

    Years: 2018-20
    Role: Executive Producer

    In this spiritual (pun intended!) successor to shows like Joan of Arcadia, an atheist gets a Facebook friend request from, well, God. God then sends him on tasks that end up (ideally) making people's lives better. The show lasted two seasons on CBS and was pretty charming, but never quite took advantage of its premise to the fullest.

    32. The Red Line

    Year: 2019
    Role: Executive Producer

    This eight-episode CBS limited series about a white Chicago cop who kills a black man and the uproar that follows, seemed to be following in the footsteps of shows like ABC's American Crime, which dealt with issues like race in a very deep, committed, and complex manner. This one didn't garner nearly as much attention or acclaim, though, despite boasting both Berlanti and Ava DuVernay as executive producers.

    31. Prodigal Son

    Years: 2019-present
    Role: Executive producer

    A disgraced FBI profiler (Tom Payne) consults for the NYPD, who need his help when a serial killer begins using the same M.O. as the profiler's incarcerated serial killer father (Michael Sheen). A tantalizing premise, to be sure, but one which as of yet — the show has been renewed for a second season — hasn't lived up to its terrifying potential.

    30. All American

    Years: 2018-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    This CW series, about a high-school football prospect who transfers to a swanky Beverly Hills high school for a better opportunity despite the culture clashes that ensue, has performed only modestly for the CW, but has been picking up steam on Netflix, so that's good news. Also good is that the show boasts Taye Diggs as a high-school football coach.

    29. Titans

    Years: 2018-present
    Role: Co-creator/Producer

    This one was in development for a long time — a live-action adaptation of the Teen Titans of the DC Comics universe, originally developed for TNT in 2014 but ultimately made for the DC Universe streaming platform in 2018. The series follows a group of teenage superheroes led by Dick Grayson, the former Robin and current Nightwing, played by Brenton Thwaites. In 2019, the series was renewed for a third season, though that's been delayed by COVID.

    28. No Ordinary Family

    Years: 2010-11
    Role: Co-Creator

    Berlanti and Jon Harmon Feldman teamed up to create this superhero series for ABC. Taking its cues from The Incredibles, the show was about a typical American family imbued with superpowers, with The Shield's Michael Chiklis as the super-strength father and Dexter's Julie Benz as his super-fast wife. The series had a cool premise, but it didn't really fit in with the rest of ABC's programming, and only lasted one season.

    27. Vixen

    Years: 2015-16
    Role: Executive Producer

    This animated series lasted for two seasons on the CW Seed streaming platform. It centered on the DC superhero Vixen, a.k.a. Mari McCabe, whose powers allow her to assume the abilities of any animal that's ever existed. While decently reviewed, the show didn't really make much of an impression from its perch on CW Seed. Series star Megalyn Echikunwoke did end up playing the live-action Vixen in the Arrowverse later on.

    26. Freedom Fighters: The Ray

    Years: 2017-18
    Role: Executive Producer

    Another animated series from the Arrowverse for CW Seed, this one focused on superhero The Ray, voiced by Russell Tovey. Like many of the Arrowverse shows, this one traipsed across dimensions, between Earth-1 and Earth-X. It also featured other Arrowverse actors in voice roles, including Melissa Benoist (as Overgirl, a villainous mirror of Supergirl), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), and Megalyn Echikunwoke (Vixen).

    25. Pan

    Year: 2015
    Role: Producer

    An unholy mess of a Peter Pan adaptation, if an incredibly well-cast one, with Garrett Hedlund as James Hook, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, and a tremendously over-the-top Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard. The result never comes together and is more irritating than anything else, but Joe Wright is a fascinating director, and Berlanti should try to collaborate with him again.

    24. Green Lantern

    Year: 2011
    Role: Writer/Producer

    Perhaps following in the footsteps of Matt Reeves — whose years doing domestic drama on TV with Felicity preceded his jump to big-budget blockbuster with Cloverfield — Greg Berlanti parlayed his success on shows like Everwood and Brothers & Sisters to a gig writing that year's big DC Comica superhero movie. No, Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern didn't light the world a bright, glowy green, but as a superhero movie "failure," it's a fairly interesting one.

    23. Stargirl

    Years: 2020-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    The latest Berlanti series premiered this past spring on DC Universe and The CW, centering on Courtney Whitmore, the titular Stargirl, who discovers the Cosmic Staff and her own personal connection to the superhero Starman. It's a fun evolution for superhero TV, with a young girl inspiring the creation of a new Justice Society of America. Gen Z superheroes are the wave of the future, and Berlanti's vast producing arm is onboard.

    22. Supergirl

    Years: 2015-present
    Role: Creator/Producer/Writer

    Superman TV shows have a long history on television; Berlanti is in fact producing Superman & Lois, coming to the CW in January 2021. But the far bolder move was moving forward with Supergirl, centered around former Glee cast member Melissa Benoist. The series started on CBS, where it didn't fit well with that network's programming or demographic, but moved to the CW after its first season, where it was a much better fit with its Arrowverse (er, "CWverse") brethren.

    21. Blindspot

    Years: 2015-2020
    Role: Executive Producer

    Berlanti served as executive producer for the first two seasons of this stylish NBC mystery about a woman (Jamie Alexander) who wakes up inside a travel bag, naked and tattooed, in the middle of Times Square, with no recollection of who she is or how she got there. Are you intrigued yet? NBC's audiences were, to the tune of five seasons and 100 episodes.

    20. Young Americans

    Years: 2000
    Role: Writer

    Ah, the great might've-been show of the golden age of the WB. While that network was launching hits with Buffy and Dawson's Creek and Charmed and Gilmore Girls, they also attempted a summer spinoff of Dawson's Creek set at a New England boarding school, centered on dreamy, horny, lovestruck teens (including a young Ian Somerhalder). A just universe wouldn't have allowed this show to flop. Berlanti only co-write one episode; maybe if he'd have been more prominently involved, things could have gone another way.

    19. Batwoman

    Years: 2019-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    Most of the headlines about this show centered around star Ruby Rose, whose initial casting was met with a backlash, and who subsequently exited the title role at the end of the first season. Whether it was that Rose didn't take to the long hours or the Vancouver shooting location, or if there were other problems on set, the bottom line is that when the show returns for its second season, it'll be Javicia Leslie stepping into the cowl as Batwoman.

     

    18. Black Lightning

    Years: 2018-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    Cress Williams stars as a high school principal whose daughters get kidnapped, sending him back to his identity as the electricity-harnessing Black Lightning. The show didn't get officially incorporated into the Arrowverse until its most recent (third) season, but even before that, the series drew raves for its human side and social commentary.

    17. Dirty Sexy Money

    Years: 2007-09
    Role: Executive Producer

    Berlanti partnered with series creator Craig Wright to create this just-pre-financial-crisis series about a filthy rich family in New York City and the backstabbing, double-dealing, scandal, and excess that they got up to. The cast on this one was top-notch, including Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh as the patriarch and matriarch of the Darling family, William Baldwin, Natalie Zea, Samaire Armstrong, Seth Gabel, and Glenn Fitzgerald as their children, and Peter Krause, fresh off of Six Feet Under, as the family's quasi-adopted son with a conscience. This show wasn't perfect, but it was addictive. It had the bad luck of premiering shortly before the WGA strike, and never fully recovered from its truncated first season.

    16. Eli Stone

    Years: 2008-09
    Role: Creator/Writer/Producer

    Of the two new ABC dramas Berlanti had his hand in during the 2007-08 strike-plagued TV season, Eli Stone was the one that felt more authentically Berlanti. It was whimsical but also heartfelt. Berlanti and co-creator Marc Guggenheim's show was about a successful lawyer (Jonny Lee Miller) whose brain aneurysm causes him to experience both premonitions as well as hallucinations like a singing George Michael. Like David E. Kelley's more fantastical shows melded with Berlanti's signature heartstring-pulling, Eli had real potential (and Laura Benanti as his love interest!), but it never caught on.

    15. Political Animals

    Years: 2012
    Role: Creator/Writer/Director

    This USA limited series probably didn't live up to its potential, given that it was a star-studded piece of political fiction about a former First Lady and Secretary of State running for President, starring Sigourney Weaver as the obvious Hillary Clinton antecedent. But while it wasn't the next great prestige political TV series, Political Animals vacillated between addictive soap and compelling trash, and TV needs that too. Props also for giving Sebastian Stan the sexy/tortured gay storyline we deeply deserved.

    14. Doom Patrol

    Years: 2019-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    Yes, another ragtag band of superheroes who could be compared to the X-Men. But this is among the better-executed of the DC Universe shows, and its recent migration to HBO Max gives it the opportunity to grow into something even bigger/better. Consider this a provisional ranking with some upside.

    13. Arrow

    Years: 2012-20
    Role: Creator/Producer/Writer

    If you're looking for the show that began the great Greg Berlanti takeover of television, look no further. The CW had been in the business of DC superheroes since airing the final seasons of Smallville, but the ambition of what Berlanti built, beginning with Arrow, and the multiverse of ever-expending interconnected TV series, each with their own vibe and eccentricities, probably hasn't been given the praise it deserves.

    12. Dawson's Creek

    Years: 1998-2003
    Role: Writer/Producer

    Famously, Berlanti's first writing job in TV was for the WB's breakthrough teen soap. His first episodes were in Season 2, including the memorable two-parter where Jack McPhee came out as gay. After series creator Kevin Williamson left the show, Berlanti became showrunner for two seasons. Dawson's was, to be generous, a tremendously up-and-down series, but it was also a touchstone TV show for a great many, and Berlanti's stamp on the series was visible in its more genuinely heartfelt moments.

    11. You

    Years: 2018-present
    Role: Creator/Writer

    It didn't initially seem like this dark — and sometimes darkly funny — series about a murderously obsessed stalker and fraud was going to join the ranks of Berlanti's hits. Languishing on Lifetime, the series was acknowledged but not much more, until its first season dropped on Netflix and it became a sensation. Its second season was a disappointment, if not uninteresting, but it's also a much different kind of show than Berlanti's done before, and we hope to see him do more.

    10. Broken Hearts Club

    Years: 2000
    Role: Writer/Director

    Berlanti's early career, long before he was the king of superhero TV, was characterized by smaller, more personal fare. His feature film debut was a movie he wrote and directed about a group of gay friends in Los Angeles who live, love, squabble and gossip about each other and occasionally play in a softball league. Gay rom-coms of the '90s and early 2000s were a subculture mostly ignored by mainstream Hollywood, but looking back they also seem more authentically insular, and this movie typifies that. The cast is outstanding, too, led by Timothy Olyphant along with John Mahoney, Billy Porter, Justin Theroux, Zach Braff, and more.

    9. The Flash

    Years: 2014-present
    Role: Creator/Producer/Writer

    Arrow was the foundation of the shared universe of DC properties on the CW — it's called the Arrowverse, after all — but the show that truly unlocked that potential was The Flash. Spinning off from Arrow, The Flash very quickly established its own ecosystem with its own, comparatively lighter vibe, before it began reconnecting with Arrow for regular check-ins, crossovers, and events. The show sports some of the best cast chemistry of Berlanti's vast filmography, featuring the likes of Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, and Carlos Valdes.

    8. Katy Keene

    Year: 2020
    Role: Executive Producer

    One of the hallmarks of many of Berlanti's early projects was the fact that they got cancelled before their time. You'd have thought he'd be past that now that he's a massive success, but the sad fate of Katy Keene proves that you're never too big for a network to fail a show. Katy Keene was a clever spinoff of Riverdale, sending Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) to New York City to chase her dreams, only to encounter aspiring fashion designer Katy Keene (Lucy Hale), who then gets to be the title of the show. The critics appreciated its style and warmth, but the CW gave it a very short leash and axed it after merely 13 episodes.

    7. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

    Years: 2018-2020
    Role: Executive Producer

    While not a proper Riverdale spinoff, the existence of Sabrina within the Riverdale universe keeps the possibility of a spooky crossover for Archie and the gang tantalizingly alive. As it is, Sabrina benefits from Kiernan Shipka's great performance as a teenage witch caught between two worlds, but it's the supporting cast where this show comes alive, from her friends and romances to Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto as her aunts. The show has established an impressive amount of mythology within a short period of time; we'll see how this plays out in its final batch of episodes later this year.

    6. Riverdale

    Years: 2017-present
    Role: Executive Producer

    Who'd have thought that the next teen TV sensation in America would focus on the Archie gang? That's what happened, though, with this adaptation of the original comics into something dark, campy, and altogether addictive. The Riverdale universe has less of Berlanti's direct fingerprints on it than the Arrowverse shows, but it's been following a similar template, and both have helped the CW stake their claim on youth and genre-focused TV.

    5. Jack & Bobby

    Years: 2004-05
    Role: Creator/Writer/Producer

    As Everwood was reaching its later years, the WB greenlit another Berlanti drama, this one with a much more ambitious concept: a family drama centered on two young brothers: the titular Jack and Bobby, accompanied by a framing story that revealed that one of the two brothers would one day be the U.S. president (but which one??). The fact that the title harkened back to the Kennedys should communicate a lot about the kind of West Wing era vibe the show sought to exist in, but it was also a classic Berlanti family drama, with a great cast featuring Christine Lahti, John Slattery, and a young Logan Lerman.

    4. Legends of Tomorrow

    Years: 2016-present
    Role: Creator/Producer

    Arrow created the Arrowverse, The Flash expanded it, but it was with Legends of Tomorrow the elastic possibilities of an interconnected superhero TV franchise that fully realized its potential. With Arrow the serious one and The Flash the more fun one, Legends of Tomorrow got to be the insane/creative/hilarious/irreverent one. With an evolving cast of heroes and a nimble willingness to follow its bliss, this story of time-hopping heroes is as uninhibited as a comic-book story is supposed to be.

    3. Brothers & Sisters

    Years: 2006-11
    Role: Producer/Writer/Showrunner

    This story about a multi-generational southern-California family dealing with the death of their patriarch — and the subsequent revelation that he had a secret daughter — took a little time to get off the ground, after ABC and creator Jon Robin Baitz parted ways. But Berlanti was able to step in and work his TV magic, assembling a series that would last five seasons, win Sally Field an Emmy, and push Matthew Rhys to the level that he could get cast on The Americans. Brothers & Sisters was known for its intra-familial political squabbling (the end of the Bush era and beginning of the Obama era manifested itself in the ever-unfolding debate between the family's liberal and conservative members) and for its ever-more-frequent wine-drunk blowups. It wasn't ever "prestige" TV, but more often than not, it was a lot of fun.

    2. Love, Simon

    Years: 2018
    Role: Director

    There are many ways that Love, Simon isn't the defiant, all-encompassing teenage day comedy that a lot of people wanted it to be. But taking the movie for what it is, there's a ton to like. It's a light, affirming romantic comedy that's not only rare in its mainstream forefronting of teen gay romance, but also for being a major studio romantic comedy at all in an era where they're fewer and far between. Berlanti knows his way around articulate, if emotionally confounded, teens who yearn for big romantic moments, and this one ends with one of the biggest romantic moments you could imagine. A moment Berlanti lifted directly from ...

    1. Everwood

    Years: 2002-06
    Role: Creator/Writer/Showrunner

    The show that put Greg Berlanti on the map as a TV creator, and also firmly established the Berlanti brand, at least the one that defined the first half of his career. Doctor Andy Brown (Treat Williams) moves with his two children from New York to small-town Colorado after the death of their mom. The kids struggle to adjust, his teenage son Ephram (Gregory Smith) resents him, then falls quickly in love with the daughter (Emily Vancamp) of the town's perturbed other doctor (Tom Amandes). Everwood was the perfect blend of sweetness, heartache, genuine decency, and pressing human interest. It knew how to be an absolute emotional assassin, but it never felt cruel or sadistic. It also gave us Chris Pratt, as Ephram's initial bully and eventual best friend. And it gave us Greg Berlanti, TV creator and producer extraordinaire. No matter how many superheroes he gives us, he's always going to have his feet planted firmly in that Colorado snow.

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Greg Berlanti, All American, Arrow, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Blindspot, Brothers & Sisters, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Dawson's Creek, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Deception, Dirty Sexy Money, Doom Patrol, Eli Stone, Everwood, The Flash, Freedom Fighters: The Ray, God Friended Me, Golden Boy, Jack & Bobby, Katy Keene, The Mysteries of Laura, No Ordinary Family, Political Animals, Prodigal Son, The Red Line, Riverdale, Stargirl, Supergirl, Titans, The Tomorrow People, Unpregnant, Vixen, You, Young Americans