Monday, November 05, 2007

Even more things you wanted to know about the WGA strike but were afraid to ask

So, the WGA strike has begun, and I have a lengthy primer on what this means to you over at the NJ.com blog.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

I completely sympathize with the writers, however, if this goes on a long time....well, it could seriously suck. That's really all there is to say.

Anonymous said...

Actually, maybe there is something else: I thought you were kidding about "Farmer Wants a Wife." That is someone's actual title?

See, this is why Hollywood needs writers.

Tom said...

The 1988 strike lasted 22 weeks or so. Is it just a foregone conclusion that this strike will be as long (or longer)?

Trip said...

Is that John Oliver from The Daily Show in the foreground of the photo?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought you were kidding about "Farmer Wants a Wife." That is someone's actual title?

It's on the CW, baby!

Trip said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Is that John Oliver from The Daily Show in the foreground of the photo?

Yes.

Trip said...

Thanks! I should have read your article first before asking questions! :-)

Alan Sepinwall said...

The 1988 strike lasted 22 weeks or so. Is it just a foregone conclusion that this strike will be as long (or longer)?

Hard to say. The writers are doing a smart thing this time by striking in the middle of the season, where the '88 strike began after almost every show had wrapped, so the studios had no incentive to bargain immediately.

On the other hand, there's much more of a corporate mentality with the studios today compared to 20 years ago, and I wouldn't be surprised if everybody just wants to break the union, no matter how long it takes, rather than try to get this resolved quickly.

Alan Sepinwall said...
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Jeff said...

What about sports? Does that fit in the "news" category, or are we going to be subjected to these airhead broadcasters actually winging it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sports should be unaffected.

Chris Littmann said...

Wow, this sounds grim. Looks like I'll have my chance to catch The Wire on DVD sooner than expected.

TuckPendleton said...

Here's a very condensed 4 minute video of what the strike is about:


http://getresponse.com/t/9603051/556840/157366564/

Alan -- do you know anything about the rumors that the Teamsters won't cross the picket lines? That would seem to help the strike end quicker...

Anonymous said...

I hope Larry David is also on a picket line - this is the perfect place of ideas for a future curb your enthusiasm season...... e.g. Larry is by pure coincedence considered a strike breaker by some of his colleagues because he gives some studio boss a pile of papers and so on.

Eric said...

Alan, do you happen to know how The Soup is classified, as Entertainment/Talk, or as News?

It would be a true tragedy if Ryan Seacrest got to keep all of his jobs and Joel McHale lost both of his.

BF said...

Will football teams that run the West-Coast Offense still be able to script the first 15 plays?

My personal hope is that the strike runs through February 25th and a grateful nation endures a Bruce Vilanch-free Oscars for the first time in nearly 2 decades.

Alap said...

"And in the case of low-rated series that may be on the chopping block (or, with something like 'Scrubs,' know that this will be the last year), there won't be an opportunity to do a final episode that provides viewers some level of closure."

so if the strike goes past the point of when the season was planned to end (may or so), shows in their final year won't ever get a series finale, even when the strike is over? they can't just produce and air those episodes in the summer or the following season?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alap, if the strike goes deep into this season, I think the networks are just going to start cutting their losses on borderline shows and re-set for next fall.

The Hollywood Reporter talked to Bill Lawrence about it.

jana said...

Wow, what a perfect time to go back to those time-honored forms of entertainment like reading, playing games, or,*gasp*, talking to your family!! ;)

Anonymous said...

Here's something I don't get. Several articles have said that shows were stockpiling scripts in case of a strike. Obviously these scripts were written by the WGA writers. So wasn't that a little counterproductive to their cause? Why would they do that?

Also, why is everyone saying latenight will go into immediate reruns? I understand why The Daily Show can't continue but can't the talk shows just cut the monologue and cram in an extra guest or musical act?

Anonymous said...

I thought you were kidding about "Farmer Wants a Wife." That is someone's actual title?

It's on the CW, baby!


Shouldn't the titilae be "Farmer Takes a Wife"?

Heigh - ho the darrrio....

Anonymous said...

Obviously it takes a few weeks for most shows to be written, shot, and edited. So if the originals run out in January and the strike were to also end then, when would the new episodes actually air? Would we be without new shows until March or so?

BigTed said...

Isn't it kind of hypocritical that on one hand the studios and networks say that unauthorized downloading or copying of content is "stealing," because you're taking something of value -- but on the other hand, they say the writers don't deserve residuals, because the content is valueless?

Or now they're even saying that downloads are "promotional" -- in which case they should be paying hackers to copy DVDs and redistribute content on the Net.

Alan Sepinwall said...

BigTed, I think you should offer up your services as a PR person to the WGA, as that's the clearest, simplest, best deconstruction of the producers' position that I've read.

dyb said...

jana said...

Wow, what a perfect time to go back to those time-honored forms of entertainment like reading, playing games, or,*gasp*, talking to your family!! ;)


Woah woah woah. No need to be alarmist. There's still community theater, and sidewalk buskers, and ... uh oh.

Mike D said...

In what I think is a pretty cool move, Jon Stewart is going to personally cover the salaries of the writers of both the Daily Show and Colbert Report for the first two weeks of the strike.

Mike D said...

Link for the Stewart story.

http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/mixed-media/2007/11/05/stewart-will-keep-striking-daily-writers-afloat

Anonymous said...

If the strike does drag on it'll be interesting to see which new shows come back once it's over. I think only The Big Bang Theory, Gossip Girl, Back to You, Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Samantha Who? have even gotten full season orders. Do you think those are likely to come back, Alan? What about the rest of the fall shows? Frankly, this was the most underwhelming batch of fall shows in years, so I'm guessing the networks are at least thankful for that and are probably happy to have excuses to cut some shows and save some money this year.

Robin said...

Alan,

Does the writer's strike affect shows on PBS like Nature, Nova, etc?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Robin, I honestly don't know, but would assume documentaries are treated like news, and therefore not part of the WGA. I could be way off, though.

David J. Loehr said...

I don't care about any of that. How does it affect me the viewer, dammit?

It sounds like your hypothetical viewer is Gumby. I'd wondered what had happened to him once Eddie Murphy stopped being funny.

If only he had good writers...

Dark Tyler said...

I'm guessing the networks are at least thankful for that and are probably happy to have excuses to cut some shows and save some money this year.

On the other hand, though, the pilot season may be affected by the strike as well, in which case the networks will have to come back next season with most this fall's shows renewed, right?

Anonymous said...

I don't think networks will save money by cutting shows. Fewer shows mean s fewer ad revenues from commercials. That is how they make all the cash.

Well, that and DVD/Internet revenues, I should say, considering the strike. But they won't be able to put out any new ones of those either.

Anonymous said...

The studios should move to a right to work state.

BF said...

Alap, the reason a show like Scrubs wouldn't be able to do a wrap-up episode post-megastrike is because all the cast & crew are off chasing their next projects. Very rarely do you get the opportunity to get the gang back together for one last go-round without decades passing.

Devin McCullen said...

BigTed, I think you should offer up your services as a PR person to the WGA, as that's the clearest, simplest, best deconstruction of the producers' position that I've read.

I can't argue with that judgement, but it does seem a little sad that the Writers Guild would need to subcontract their PR copy. (I kid 'cause I love.)

Anonymous said...

Alan, how many non-writers will be out of work as a result of the strike? Technicians, below the line personnel, et cetera? Are there figures on that? Since many of those people are probably union, also, what will they do?

Baylink said...

Well, there's one thing I can tell you right now...

if the producers screw up the Scrubs' finale, there's gonna be about a million gnomes flying to LA to burn down the Producers' houses.

Why can Stewart pay his own writers BTW? It's a classy move... I *think*.

Karen said...

Baylink, Stewart isn't paying his writers to write. He's paying them their salary for two weeks of the strike, so that they don't suffer. So, yeah, it's classy.

Alan, if you're forced to go back and watch DVDs for the duration, does this mean that the voting for the next "Freaks and Geeks"-style blog-a-thon is open again??

Anonymous said...

Of all this discussion about the strike I find it disappointing that there is very little about the thousands and thousands that could/will lose their job over this and how badly this will effect the economy in LA.

LA said...

The ONLY thing I wanted from this television season was for Scrubs to get it's proper finale and send-off.

Thanks for the Bill Lawrence interview link, even though my heart sunk a little as a read it. I think his fans care more about the finale than he does, but I will give him props for being concerned about his writing staff.

LA said...

anon @ 6:14 - Maybe the strike will somehow rebalance the real estate market here in So Cal. The average nondescript 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1500 sq ft house in LA or OC is still about $550,000 to $600,000, I kid you not.

TL said...

Just out of curiosity, does anybody know what WGA scale is? I.e., what's the average guy in a network writers' room making under the current contract?

Stef said...

This really helped clear things up. I do feel for the writers and hope they get what they want... and I will probably be upping my Netflix plan!

I did see Keifer Sutherland filming scenes of 24 here in DC today....

Alex R said...

I have to say, I am having a hard time right now feeling a lot of empathy for the writers.

While I agree they should be getting their royalties for things like Itunes, DVD's, and downloads, the fact that they have been so unbending and so unwilling to even come to the table and really try and hammer a fair agreement out, makes me just angry about losing my favorite shows and feeling no sympathy for the writers - especially considering all the lower paid technicians that they have helped put out of work.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alex, if you listen to the writers, it's the studios who have been unbending, who have refused to negotiate and forced a strike (or, as some have called it, a de facto lockout). I'm not inside the negotiations, and I can't say one way or the other, but there's spin coming from both camps, and the studios have a more effective PR machine.

Dennis Wilson said...

Alex, I appreciate your pain, but I hope you can appreciate ours. Since early in the TV age, our salaries have consisted of both an initial script fee, paid when our scripts are actually written, and a residual, paid when the episodes we wrote are rerun in the summer.

The two amounts together form the basis of our budgeting, and we try to live within those budgets, raise our families on them.

But the TV networks have moved reruns off of their networks and onto DVD, cutting our salaries in half or worse, pocketing the savings and keeping all of the incredible DVD profits for themselves.

They proclaim record earnings to their investors while crying poverty to our negotiators.

And while it's true there's spin coming out of both sides in this dispute, at least all of the WGA proposals are for something we actually want, while many of the producers' are intentionally ridiculous, in hopes that we'll trade dropping a serious demand of ours for a frivolous one of theirs.

But the bottom line is, we should get paid every time an episode we wrote airs, the same way book authors gets a few bucks with every copy sold. That's all we're really asking.

Jessica Pisano said...
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Jess said...

So is there anything that we, the audience, can do to support the writers and voice our dissatisfaction with the way the networks are treating them?

Dark Tyler said...

Especially when said audience lives in a continent far, far away?

PamelaJaye said...

I believe it was Jane Espenson who suggested you write to Nikki Finke.
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/

in her blog
http://www.janeespenson.com/
archives/00000455.php

Can I use regular html tags for urls here? it would be easier. but i've never researched it
thanks for the link to Bill Lawrence, btw

John said...

I don't understand how anyone could accuse the writer's of being inflexible when they gave up the fight for DVD royalties, which they've been getting screwed on for years, to help move the process along.

Long story short: The writer's deserve to have their interests protected when Internet distribution hits it big. Don't forget that the studio's are holding the writer's to the antiquated terms of their 1982 negotiations on VHS when it comes to DVD. I can easily see a future where studio's release first-run programming through the Internet before television as a response to TiVo. If that's the case, and thousands of people are paying to see the latest episode of "The Office" online, the writer's need a cut of that.