What is a show runner?

From time to time, while combing the trade papers or listening to the latest breaking news on "The Insider," you may have heard someone referred to as the "show runner" for a television sitcom or drama series.

This title has been devised to distinguish the executive producer who actually executive-produces a series from all the other writers, cast members and post-production people who have been named executive producers in lieu of a big raise, or the folks who have been granted executive producer status on a series because they manage Jerry Seinfeld -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

Designating a show runner is important on a series that can have anywhere from two to 10 folks sporting executive producer titles in their contracts.

The show runner is in charge of every aspect of a show, from story creation to script writing to direction and post-production. If he or she -- but mostly he because, let's face it, Hollywood is still a boys' club -- is show runner, the buck stops with him/her.

It's kind of like being the director on a flick, one Hollywood agent explains. Except that the show runner usually also writes -- maybe two to five episodes a season.

On a feature film, the director has all the status. On a TV series, the director takes direction from the show runner. That's because generally a series does not have just one director; directors change, sometimes from week to week.

"It's a giant job," the agent explained. "That's why they get paid a lot of money."