So what does the executive co-producer of "ER" watch on television (beside her own show)? Simple. Executive co-producers don't have time for recreational television. Or eating or breathing, for that matter. Just ask Carol Flint, whose job entails writing, casting, watching, editing, scheduling, staffing, budgeting, researching and generally overseeing each episode of the Emmy-nominated show. "After you've done that for 22 episodes, you're about ready for a breather. The network would like us to do more than that, but if we did, we wouldn't get any vacation, any time off at all."
Flint (shown here second from left with actor Ron Eldard, director Mimi Leder and actress Julianna Margulies) graduated from the M.F.A. playwriting program at UC Davis in 1987, then went on to write for and eventually produce another hit series, the long-running "China Beach," as well as "L.A. Law" and "Earth 2." Although many of her productions have been nominated for Emmys, Flint says she tries not to write episodes with that in mind. "It would be nice to win one, but it would be detrimental to the show's realism if every week everyone was trying to win an Emmy. So you try to keep your eye on telling a story and telling a true story. Every character can't have a big, explosive turning point, or pretty soon, everybody's been married, had a divorce, had a suicide attempt, found a lost child, and it's too kooky."
Regarding what makes or breaks a show, Flint believes that if there were a set formula for success, everyone would have a hit on their hands. Some shows, she says, speak to the times, as "L.A. Law" spoke of and to the '80s. But a good dramatic series does have a few common denominators, like strong characters and arresting settings: "I don't think it's a surprise that certain milieus, like police departments and hospitals--places where there are life and death--keep showing up again. And again."
Through it all, Flint remains committed to the writing portion of her job, even while appreciating the other aspects. "Being a producer means that you have a lot more involvement and creative control of the product and the story, but I think of all of that as a way of contributing to what happens at the writing process."
For the record, whenever she gets home early enough, Flint watches "The X-Files" with her 14-year-old son, Sam.
-- By Clare Homan