Answer Man

Executive Producer — What goes in a name?

Q: Avid TV watchers like myself count the number of executive producers and producers listed at the beginning of our favorite prime-time shows. These lists can go on as long as 15 minutes into the story. What are the duties of executive producers and producers? It has always been my belief that executive producers provide the money and producers make the coffee.

David Busse, of Maryville

A: While I’m sure producers would be loathe to hear their job described so mundanely, you are pretty much on the money with your comparison. To use your metaphor, executive producers are responsible for buying the coffee plantation while the producer sees to it that the end product is brewed to everyone’s satisfaction.

“The executive producer, much like top executives in the business world, is responsible for initiating the movie production process by securing the necessary funding to move forward with the movie,” Jared Lewis, a professor of history, philosophy and humanities who now works with Demand Media, says. “In many cases, the executive producer is a well-known producer who has gained acclaim in the industry and can gain funding from investors by the sheer power of his name.

“The producer, on the other hand, is more closely akin to the manager who works under the top executive. Producers have the task of managing the money once it has been secured by the executive producer. ”

After that, the executive producer plays more of a hands-off role while the producer jumps in with both feet.

“The executive producer is largely responsible for ensuring that the film moves forward in a timely fashion under the direction of the producer and other key staff,” Lewis says.

“The producer is the time manager, however. Whereas the executive producer knows that the project should be completed within a certain number of months or weeks, the producer handles the micromanagement of the time schedule to ensure the project gets done within the specified time frame.”

To do that, it’s the producer who is responsible for the nitty-gritty details. For example, after the executive producer hires his producer, it’s up to the producer to hire the necessary personnel to carry out the production from the casting to catering.

Similarly, it’s the producer and director rather than the executive director who typically handle most of the technical aspects of the movie. However, the executive producer may play an advisory role in some of the major technological aspects. Moreover, in television, the executive director even may be the writer or creator of a series, according to the Producers Guild of America.

TV buffs like yourself might want to punch up www.producersguild.org/?page=faq, where you can learn what associate producers, co-producers and a whole lot of other producers do as well.

Q: Can you tell me when the next season of “Outlander” will begin on Starz?

Gary, of Belleville

A: From blogs on the Internet, I can see that fans of this show involving time travel think it’s high time a return date is announced, but the best I can say right now is only time will tell. While I’ve seen educated guesses of April 2 or April 9, all that Starz has said as of Christmas is that the show likely will be back in very early spring.

I understand the eager anticipation, though. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of novels, “Outlander” was a darling of last year’s awards shows after the first 16 episodes. Called “sexy, smart and stirring” by Entertainment Weekly, it won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show, the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series and a Saturn Award for actress Caitriona Balfe as best actress on television.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, the story was set in motion when former World War II nurse Claire Randall (Balfe) and her husband, Frank, visit Inverness, Scotland, in 1945 so that he can research his ancestors. While exploring the standing stones at Craigh na Dun, Claire faints after touching the highest stone and finds herself instantly transported back to Scotland in 1743. There she meets the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings.

This year, the action will pick up with Gabaldon’s second book in her series, “Dragonfly in Amber,” and viewers will be in for some major changes. Here are a few teasers to whet your appetite until the show returns:

For starters, Jamie and Claire reportedly will age about 20 years and will be traveling to Paris, where they’ll take up residence with Jamie’s cousin Jared (Robert Cavanah), a wealthy wine merchant . Unfortunately, Jared also supports the very uprising that Jamie and Claire are trying to prevent.

In Paris, Claire will put her nursing skills to good use again at the Paris L’Hopital des Anges, where she will work under the watchful eye of Mother Hildegarde as played by Frances De La Tour, who starred as Madame Maxime in the Harry Potter movies.

Finally, Ron Moore, the show’s executive producer, promises that the rape storyline has run its course.

“There will be reverberations and repercussions, you know, how this impacts Jamie’s life, how this impacts his relationship with Claire,” Moore told eonline. “But, no, we’re not going back to prison cells every week in season two.”

Today’s trivia

Who was the longest reigning elected pope?

Answer to Saturday’s trivia: Although it might no longer pass muster in today’s politically correct world, one of the three comic strips I miss the most (along with “Bloom County” and “The Far Side”) is “Tumbleweeds.” The star of cartoonist T.K. Ryan’s skewered look at the Old West was the title character, a lethargic cowpoke whose main ambitions in life seemed to be keeping his horse, Blossom, awake and avoiding the romantic clutches of Hildegard Hamhocker. But I always thought a prize for best all-time character name should go to Bucolic Buffalo, the biggest, strongest — and, probably, dumbest — member of the Poohawk tribe. Alas, after 42 years, Ryan, now 89, published his last strip on Dec. 30, 2007. By the way, did you know that Jim Davis was Ryan’s assistant for a decade until Garfield hit the big time in 1978?

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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