Thursday, September 11, 2008

What do those goofy credits mean?

First off, WOW! 11 people signed up for the SITCOM ROOM in the first hour alone. Many thanks! Just a few spots left, so if you're interested, go here for info and here to sign up.

Now my Friday question. As always, if I can't find an appropriate picture I put up one of Natalie Wood.
sonderangerbot asks:

Ken, I'd be interested to know what the difference is between the different writing credits you see on a show; you have your staff writers, story editors, creative consultants (which I think you described once in a post as authorities doing basically nothing) etc etc , could they all be that useful?

Here's the short answer: they're all bullshit. At least in half-hour comedy. There's actually only one meaningful title and that is "Show runner" and it's also the only title you’ll never see.

Originally if you created and ran a show you got a coveted Producer credit. Everybody else had to settle for Story Editor or (for the newbies) Staff Writer.

Only producers were entitled to Emmys if their show won Best Comedy. And along with the prestige (chicks dig dem producers), the titles helped establish pay grades.

So everyone wanted in on that action. (And by everyone I mean ME.)

The show runners were promoted to the made-up title of Executive Producer and Story Editors became Producers.

Then writing staffs grew. More bogus titles were needed. That led to Co-Executive Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Producer, Executive Story Editor, Executive Script Consultant.

And then there were the punch-up guys, writers who helped out once or twice a week, usually on re-write nights. The spiffy title of Creative Consultant was dreamed up for them. But even they started getting into the act. There are now Consulting Producers. Soon there will be Consulting Executive Producers, Consulting Supervising Producers, Consulting Co-Supervising Co-Executive Story Producers.

And now you also have the non-writing producers and managers who take ersatz producer credits. Their titles should be “Leaching Producer”, “Do Nothing Producer”, “Another Level of Interference Producer”, or “Co-Parasite Producer”.

In general, the Executive Producer is the show runner and his second in command is the Co-Executive Producer. Everyone else is just on staff. They do the same job they did when they were Script Captains or Executive Story Wage Slaves.

The only exception to this producer alphabet soup is the “Produced by” credit. That always goes to the person who is in charge of the production, hiring crews, supervising post production, and overseeing budgets. In other words, unlike everyone else who has the credit, this person actually PRODUCES the show.


Annie said...

Kinda like sanitation engineer or domestic engineer...or vegetation therapist. Yes, I made the last one up - I'm a creative consultant, dammit, I can do that!

James Patrick Joyce said...

Co-Executive Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Producer, Executive Story Editor, Executive Script Consultant.

Those all at least seem to make sense. Kind of a rank thing, like General and Brigadier-General.

But Consulting Producer is essentially meaningless. If you're consulting, you're not producing. If you're producing, then you're not a consultant, you're a producer.

Hollywood's fun.

Rebounding said...

I just came here to say that I wholeheartedly approve of you posting Natalie Wood. And that the Royals are a disgrace...i.e. The anti-Natalie Wood.

Cap'n Bob said...

I saw this on the credits for a kids' show: Assistant Puppet Wrangler.

Anonymous said...

I would love to know the genesis of the very weird "Producer" versus "Produced By" distinction, which is probably the most difficult for a layperson to understand (thanks for the explanation). Did it start on Law & Order, perhaps? That's where I recall first seeing it.

One funny title not listed here is "Executive Consultant," which I first saw appended to Gene Roddenberry's name in the credits of the Star Trek movies of the 1980s. Roddenberry had received a "Produced By" credit for the first Star Trek movie in 1979, which was wildly expensive (for its time) although not wildly successful. "Executive Consultant" was Paramount's way of acknowledging his central importance to Star Trek, but in fact he had no meaningful input into any of the films that followed the first one.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's a follow-up question... watching a Will and Grace re-run yesterday, and there must've been a dozen people with Executive Producer credits...who the hell is running the show?

Tallulah Morehead said...

Actually Cap'n Bob, "Assistant Puppet Wrangler" sounds like a legitamate job with clearly defined responsibilites. And needed. Some of those glove puppets are all hands!

A good friend of mine was the production designer on TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, and they had dozens of puppet wranglers on that picture.

Too bad THE WIZARD OF OZ didn't credit a "Munchkin Wrangler."

I'd like to see specific, real credits, like "Guy Who Came Up With The Obilisk Joke" or "Co-Executive Producer's wife's Unemployable Nephew."

On my films, I always had a "Vodka Wrangler," an "Assistant Star's Face-Stretcher" and of course, my gentlemen friends were billed as "Executive Orgasm COnsultant."


Mobutu said...


One of the biggest sinners in terms of the proliferation of producer credits would seem to be The Simpsons. The entire first act of any episode is mostly underscored by producer credits, with the writer credit sneaking in amid enough other credits as to be easily missed.

But, at the same time, it is one of the few network series out there that seems to belong to its writers and creators first, with little if any interference from the network brass. And, if the audio commentaries are to be trusted, the proliferation of producer titles was welcomed by many of the regular contributors who created the memorable jokes in the re-write room. (The obvious example, here, would be George Meyer, who got the credit long after, apparently, writing the best jokes without any credit. Although he apparently didn't agitate for a producer credit.)

I suppose I have two questions for you:

1. How do you reconcile your dislike of the "[x] Producer] phenomenon with a show that might well be considered a culprit in that, while also being a show that protected and promoted its writers?

2. It's long been a rumor that your Cheers colleague Sam Simon was instrumental in taking the Simpsons from their first-season infancy and really creating the characters as we know them. Via an alleged settlement and bad blood with Groening, we never hear about him anymore. He might as well be dead to the phenomenon to which he must have, for a trice or a ton, contributed. It can't have been nothing; but to hear the show-runners tell of it, it might as well have been. That seems implausible at best. Tell us about the Sam you knew and about the Sam you might have heard of in terms of the allegedly best writers room in television.

Anonymous said...

Great Picture. Long may you not find something suitable. Looking forward to the next time.

Dave Mackey said...

The whole "Producer"/"Produced By" thing baffles me, too, but I seem to think that "Produced By" is always the final credit for line producers. Kind of a signal to say "that's it, no more producers". That may have originated on "The Simpsons" where there are eleventy zillion producers at any given time, producing whatever they produce on the show.

Mary Stella said...

Is the person who gets the coffee the Caffeine Producer?

Natalie Wood does nothing for me. How about a random Gerard Butler picture instead?

Oh wait. It's your blog and you can post who you want to.

Can't blame me for trying. *g*

Anonymous said...

So, Ken, did you name that picture Sex_Education or is that how it came?

I think the photographer should have hired a Subtlety Consultant.

Anonymous said...

hey Ken:

i've seen show where exec. producers also take produced by credit. does that seem as lame to you as it does to me?

Anonymous said...

I fuirst saw the term showrunner used in the newspaper etc. about 6-8 years ago; I think I first saw it in an article on Everwood. How long has it been used in the industry? And I totally understood it was to distinguish who actually handled running the show versus the title inflation that had broken out over time. It is the oldest trick--instead of giving someone a raise or power give them a fancy title--happens in the workplace all the time.

Anonymous said...

tallulah: Your production designer friend should've gotten an Oscar nomination for Team America, a brilliantly designed film.

Seems like the proliferation of producer credits causes a problem every year at the Oscars, since they don't allow all the credited producers to share in the Best Picture nomination. Someone who worked their butt off for years on a project can lose their spot to some suit who made a few phone calls. But I think the Emmys just throw everybody into the mix.

Anonymous said...

Traditionally the Associate Producer is in charge of Post (Editing). I have worked on shows where the credit was weaseled away by some writer who couldn't differentiate a cut from a dissolve or knew the difference between Offline and Online but it is generally fixed to Post.

Oh and the Show Runner's Secretary often gets some BS credit too.

Lairbo said...

I forget which (State and Maine, maybe) but some film about filmmaking featured the line, "Associate Producer is what you give your secretary instead of a raise."

Anonymous said...

And I have a book about THE TODAY SHOW referring to their "associate producers", as in "Suppose (an animal act) urinates on camera--then what?" "Let the associate producer clean it up. That's what he's paid to do"

And as for credits...have David Issacs tell us what he actually does as "Consulting Producer" on MAD MEN.

Is it just me or is there something subliminal in that Natalie Wood photo?

Tallulah Morehead said...

"jbryant said...
tallulah: Your production designer friend should've gotten an Oscar nomination for Team America, a brilliantly designed film."

I agree. His name is Jim Dulce, and on one of the DVD's extras, he takes you about his lovely miniature sets. He has an Emmy for designing THE MUPPET SHOW.

I've known him for ages, and his kids and his ex-wife. Fine folk. Jim even bought the film rights to one of Little Dougie's stories once.

Little Dougie is in rehearsals for a GIANT gay wedding that Jim is designing and building the set for, as his wedding gift. He also did a set for my own one-woman show back in 1996. The centerpiece of that set was a GIGANTIC picture of ME!

He's a GENIUS!

Tom Quigley said...

"Okay, here's a follow-up question... watching a Will and Grace re-run yesterday, and there must've been a dozen people with Executive Producer credits...who the hell is running the show?"

I worked the audience on that show its first season a couple of times and couldn't get along with the audience coordinator -- one of the most miserable people I've ever met (I won't mention his name)... Matter of fact he was so bad that he went through five page crew heads that season... If everyone who worked on the staff of the show had an attitude as bad as him, my response is: who the hell cares what their title was? They could have been called "Omnipotent Grand Cosmic Supernova Hoochie-Koochie High Priest Lord-of-the-Rings Consulting Executive Producer" for all I care, and I wouldn't have worked with any of them (except maybe Jim Burrows, and I never saw him with a bad attitude)...

Annie said...

Congrats to Tallulah and Little Dougie. I'm so happy for you both. Btw, my invite is late in arriving, just fyi. ;)

Ken, how come so many cranky, obnoxious people are employed and totally nice, intelligent hotties are unemployed? Not fair, not fair, not fair!

Tim W. said...

I'm making it my goal in life to become the creative, associate supervising, co-executive producer on a show. I will send my resume out to anyone interested.

Annie said...

tim w - if I wanted to be around someone with that title, I'd just get married again.

Anonymous said...

What about shows that have more than one executive producer? I bet half of those are bullshit..

Tallulah Morehead said...


Dougie and I are not getting gay married. Frankly, over half of my marriages were gay marriages, although I usually didn't find that out until after the wedding.

In any event, as up-to-date readers of MY flog know, I am married at the moment, having married little Joshua Allen, this year's SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE winner, last month. I was part of his prize! However, I don't expect it to last. There's a slight age difference (I'm 92 years older than Joshua, but I am willing to overlook his youth.), he seemed to object to my cheating on him with Olympic athletes during our honeymoon in China last month, and he finds my naked body repulsive. Picky, picky, picky. Oh, and he served me with papers yesterday. Ah, l'mour.

I MAY attend the gay wedding Dougie is participating in. (I don't like to be specific about future appearances, to avoid the crowdss that mob me everywhere I go, usually carrying torches!) In the wedding, Dougie is playing the role of "Marriage," highly unlikely casting for a 58 year old "Confirmed Bachelor".

As for your question: "how come so many cranky, obnoxious people are employed and totally nice, intelligent hotties are unemployed?" As Little Dougie's old mentor, "Sweet Dick" Whittington, always used to say, "Nice pays scale."

Anonymous said...

Tallulah, I am curious....has your path ever crossed that of Stephen Sondheim? I mean, so much of your life echoes through the lyrics of "I'm Still Here" from his musical FOLLIES (especially the line "Got through it stinko/By my pool").

For the non-theater folk, that song stopped the show in the original Broadway production, performed by the woman Little Dougie and Ken probably know better as Lily Munster--Yvonne DeCarlo.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Well actually Paul, Little Dougie is just as apt to think of Yvonne singing as "I'm Still Here" as he is to think of her as Lily Munster (Which she was admittedly in the full make up and costume for when he met her on The Munsters's set back in 1965), or even as Moses's sheep-scented wife.

Stephen and I have not crossed paths, sadly, although I starred in his rivel's, Sir Webster Lloyd Webfoot's dreary musical PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY for it's one memorable performance on Broadway over 20 years ago.

I know that Little Dougie worships Sondheim though. SWEENEY TODD is his favorite musical. One of the grooms in the gay wedding Dougie is cast in played "Young Ben" in FOLLIES out here 20 years ago, a production Dougie saw.

Dougie used to wear a beard, and when he did, he was, from time-to-time, mistaken for Sondheim. When someone would start telling him how they loved his music, he knew he'd hit another one. Dougie has always been puzzled by this phenomenon, as, while there is a slight resemblance, Dougie is 20 years younger than Stephen. When feeling cranky, he's been known to respond to Sondheim fans mistaking him for Stephen with: "Yes. I wrote WEST SIDE STORY when I was SIX!"

Worse, Little Dougie was quite recently engaged by a songwriter who is one of Sondheim's personal proteges, to write the book of a musical around the younger songwriter's music. Whether the show ever opens anywhere or not, Dougie is feeling the crushing weight of knowing that whatever he writes for this show, Stephen Sondheim WILL be reading it. And Dougie is in a state I would describe as "Abject Terror" at the prospect.

As for the character who sings I'M STILL HERE: next to me, she's a Jeannie-cum-lately. And this lady doesn't get "stinko" unless she forgets to bathe for a few weeks. Now Moses's wife, SHE was stinko! The woman smelled like old lamb chops wrapped in a wet sweater. I prefer to get tipsy by my massive hedge labyrinth, The Befuddlement. I lose a couple Japanese hedge trimmers in there every year. I sometimes hear their plaintive cries late at night.


Anonymous said...

Have to go for the obvious lowbrow remark here. I can't help it:

I get wood from Natalie Wood.

Anonymous said...

As a person lacking the talent and the desire to have anything at all to do with the creation of anything on TV or in the movies -- I've never even been to Los Angeles, let me assure you all that I couldn't care less about who did what offscreen or their titles. I go the john while the credits run.

Steely Dan said...

The one exception to the "Creative Consultant" title is Tom Mankiewicz of the first "Superman" movie. He is credited by director Richard Donner with having written the final shooting script for the film. When the WGA refused to give him writing credit, though, Donner decided to credit him as "Creative Consultant" to acknowledge his contribution to the movie, without which he says the film never would have been made.

Michael Hagerty said...

Aw, Rory!

Anonymous said...

Michael, if I didn't do it, then somebody else might have, and I couldn't let that happen. I had to be the pig this time (depending on one's interpretation of the remark), just because the opportunity was there.

That's how I roll *makes the whitest gangster sign he can*

Tallulah Morehead said...

Rory, Michael,

In 1960 they used to say Elaine
May, but Natalie Wood.

Thank Heaven nobody ever made any crude sex jokes based on MY name!


Anonymous said...

Sure, Natalie Wood -- if Mary Astor. (Didn't these little puns originate in the margins of Mad Magazine?)

Y'know Rory, you could've gone with the slightly less salacious "Natalie Wood was aptly named." :)

Tallulah Morehead said...

Is Helen Reddy to give Mary Tyler Moore, after she gave Edith Head?

I gotta million of these.

Annie said...

Tallulah - don't evah change.

Anonymous said...

Y'know Rory, you could've gone with the slightly less salacious "Natalie Wood was aptly named." :)

Dammit, that's even better! Curse you and your larger brain!

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Annie said...
Tallulah - don't evah change.

Not even my undies? Because when I forget for a month or two, I get complaints. Last time, even The Headless Iindian Brave who haunts my house complained, and he doesn't have a nose.

But thanks darlng.