Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Stewart & Colbert: Okay, so now what?

Over at the NJ.com blog, some brief thoughts on the returns of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

34 comments:

Anthony Foglia said...

Yes, "what do they do tomorrow?" is the big question. I think both shows will have a lot more interviews. Two segments for all guests on "A Daily Show" for the near future, and Colbert will probably do similar.

You should have noted that not only is Stewart eager to deal with the WGA, Viacom is willing to let him.

R.A. Porter said...

Jon clearly needs his writers for a lot of reasons. Like explaining the difference between a contract between a production company and a union - covering all the work owned and created by that production company - and a waiver for a Sumner Redstone moneymaker.

It's a shame this isn't two years ago. I'd have been tickled to see Everybody Loves Raymond come back as the sole sitcom with a sane production company. Of course, more people than just Jon Stewart and Jay Leno would have been grousing in that case.

This, probably, is why labor unions are mostly composed of blue collar workers. Too many white collar whiners. I speak from experience. I wear a white collar and whine like a little b**ch.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am really confused.

How is Jon Stewart's opening segment any different than Jay Leno's opening monologue?

Other than the fact that one is sitting and the other is standing, they both seem like they have prepared written jokes.

Didn't it seem like Stewart wrote those jokes himself? Or did they just come off the top of his head?

And will the WGA actually launch an investigation, like they're doing to Leno?

Nicole said...

I think Stewart's opening segment was noticeably different from his usual schitck and for an everyday watcher, it was obvious he wasn't relying on written material. He normally has a quick spontaneous bit prior to every show and this seemed like an extended version of that.

I can understand why Stewart is pissed that they won't negotiate because if they apply Letterman's agreement to the Daily Show/ Colbert Report writers, doesn't that mean that many more writers covered under an agreement that gives the writers what they want? Same with Kimmel and Leno. The more writers protected with this agreement, the stronger it becomes and the more likely the hold outs will cave.

This strategy is used all the time to crack holdouts in multiple party litigation cases and since the ratings blowout for Letterman has not happened, they should start thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

If it was all ad libbed, how did the graphics match up with what he was saying?

on the dole said...

Degree of difficulty is definitely much higher, and the waiver idea may have some merit, but I don't see how the WGA can go after Leno and leave these guys alone. They aren't ad-libbing responses to video clips. These shows (and the clips they play) are planned and rehearsed, which means comic material is written in advance. No way is something like the Sean Penn joke completely spontaneous. Maybe I'm confused on the rules, and these guys are allowed to write material for themselves. But I thought not, in which case they've got big problems going forward.

jim treacher said...

"And will the WGA actually launch an investigation, like they're doing to Leno?"

Nah. America actually watches Leno.

Tom said...

I assume that Stewart and Colbert are lawyered up to the gills and are prepared to deal with the WGA's Council of Elders on Compliance or whatever the hell they call it.

Basically, the old WGA contract stated that things like Leno's or Stewart's monologues are not "literary material" and are thus not covered by the WGA's contract with the AMPTP. (I assume this I what Leno meant on his first day back when he said he was playing the Guild rules.) But the WGA strike rules explicitly ban the monologues. I guess the WGA's legal argument is that since the contract has expired they're able to impose the more restrictive definition of literary work on its members. Stewart's carefully calculated legal response was "F*ck you."

Stewart's balls-out defiance of the WGA is the real story here. It's going to be interesting to see if the Guild does choose to play hardball with him. And Colbert. and Leno. And O'Brien. And Kimmel.

United Hollywood indeed.

CarolMR said...

Why were the Critics' Choice Awards televised on VH1 and why wasn't it boycotted?

Matt said...

On Critic's Choice, since (as I understand) there was no host or scripted material, no WGA implications. Rest assured that if there were, folks like Sean Penn, Clooney, etc. wouldn't have shown.

Tom said...

VH-1, which produces the Critic's Choice Awards, is not a Guild signatory. Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes, is. The WGA will only strike productions by signatory companies. That's why NBC is trying a bankshot telecast by turning the GG's into a press conference covered by NBC News. NBC's news division isn't a WGA signatory, either.

Anonymous said...

The more this drags on the more American will blame the writers. First, with Leno and all the rest back, viewers be curious what the writers are clamoring for and what their worth and contribution truly is if the shows can go on without them. (I speak not to the merits of that claim, just that it will become the conventional wisdom of the viewers.). As some writers work and some don't, as Worldwide Pants and others get special exemptions, writers to whom income matters most will become more and more peeved. It sounds to me like the WGA was counting on some type of massive public backlash which hasn't materialized. Sure, SAG will support them, but that's to be expected, but no one follows the opinions of actors. If they did, President Kerry would have resolved this strike by now.

R.A. Porter said...

Quick clarification to anon:
Worldwide Pants does not have "special exemptions".

WWP - a production company - negotiated a contract with the WGA - a labor entity.

The same contract the WGA negotiated with UA.

The same contract the WGA wants to negotiate with all the companies that comprise the AMPTP, which is an *alliance* of competing companies that has chosen to try negotiating as a bloc.

Dejafu said...

Well, ask yourself: is there *any* proposed contract that WWP would not have accepted? They get the real contract at the end of the day anyways ("favored nations"), so if I were them, I would agree to anything to get back on the air.

Anonymous said...

Tell the writer who can't make his car payment this month that WWP doesn't have a special exemption. I see your point, of course, but in the end, it doesn't make a difference. Some writers are working, some are not, but there's not much union in that, now is there?

todmod said...

I agree with what is first stated - much more attention needs to be paid to the fact that the WGA will not take a deal with Viacom to let the Daily Show return with writers (the same deal Letterman got).

Now the logic behind denying the deal is clear. The Daily Show with writers helps Viacom and thus helps them get more revenue during the strike. This is not desired.

But bottom line - it's still extremely hypocritical to turn down a deal that agrees to their demands (and one they accepted with Letterman) because they don't want to support the company offering it. It makes sense in terms of strike strength, but I don't see how it's any less frustrating than the hardball tactics of the studios.

Anonymous said...

I think the longer this drags on, the more blame will go to the WGA (however inexplicably). The message I got from John Stewart last night was that while everyone's supportive of the demands, they also want to get back to work. There's been some stuff in the news about the effect this has had on the New York economy, and at this point it seems like lots of people are getting hurt that aren't going to benefit in the end.

Here's my question: At what point in the TV year do the writers regain leverage?

Sub-question: At what point does this have to be finished for shows to come back on this season? Especially those shows that aren't scheduled to return in the fall (e.g. Scrubs)?

R.A. Porter said...

I feel very, very bad for the writer who can't make his car payment. He's unfortunate to work for Ford. The writers who are back at work are under a contract with GM. Happens all the time in many industries.

Divide and conquer against the constituents of the AMPTP is going to be painful in the short-term, but it's the most effective strategy going forward. Let's see if any of this week's rumors - Lionsgate, LucasFilm, etc. - start panning out. That will show us how quickly or slowly this will be over.

And to todmod: there's nothing "hypocritical" about it. If Viacom wants to agree to the same deal as WWP - signing an agreement with the WGA for *ALL* of its shows - than the WGA will *jump* at the opportunity. WWP did not negotiate a special "Dave and Craig-only" deal. WWP has a full deal with the WGA. I expect them to be a bigger player than usual in this year's pilot season, as they're the only company currently able to accept scripts.

Anonymous said...

I'm officially having a hard time watching Kilborn. It was fun for a week, but I think I'm going back to switching off the tube.

I thought the Colbert Show was really weak last night, though the Daily Show was fairly strong. Maybe that's reflective of Stewart being the more seasoned veteran of the two.

Anonymous said...

I feel very, very bad for the writer who can't make his car payment. He's unfortunate to work for Ford. The writers who are back at work are under a contract with GM. Happens all the time in many industries.

Perhaps, but I think the perspective of the young writer on the line and the auto worker are very, very different and thus inapposite in this setting.

There has been some serious mismanagement by the WGA leadership here. It seems pretty obvious that they braced themselves for a two week strike never thinking it would last as long as it has. Stewart seemed miffed at the WGA last night.

Nicole said...

I'm officially having a hard time watching Kilborn. It was fun for a week, but I think I'm going back to switching off the tube.

Poor Craig Ferguson, after Letterman for years now and still no one knows who he is.

Do we know whether or not Viacom was willing to negotiate for all its shows and not just The Daily Show? (and Colbert Report). As the writers for Viacom productions all have the same contract now, wouldn't a precedent already be set for them to benefit from a deal with the TDS and CR writers where they would have to get the same benefits?

I do hope that further deals can be made with other production companies to move this along, because the goodwill initially given to the WGA is starting to fade, especially as the average joe could care less about the details, and when people like Jon Stewart start complaining regardless of whether or not he outlines all the "facts", the general audience will start to wonder what the WGA negotiators are doing.

filmcricket said...

Yeah, it'll be interesting to see what the fall-out is here. I agree with Nicole that both shows felt different than they would had the script been prepared, but I also agree that both Jon and Stephen obviously had "bits" in mind ahead of time.

I was surprised a pro-union guy would be willing to cross a picket line to appear on the Report. I also wish Jon had let the Cornell U guy talk a bit more about how these interim deals benefit the union, because, frankly, I don't see the long-term upside.

I'm glad Letterman's and Ferguson's writers are back at work and I'm glad feature writers can now pitch to UA. But WWP doesn't own the new media distribution rights to Letterman's show, CBS does. Perhaps WWP is paying a fee to the writers to cover this for now, but if that's so, I can't imagine Busboy Productions (Jon's company) wouldn't have been willing to do the same.

So far as I can see, CBS is benefitting just as much from Letterman's return with writers as Comedy Central would have with Jon and Stephen returning with theirs.

R.A. Porter said...

Here's a link to the WWP/WGA deal.

As for Stewart's production company, it still doesn't own the show.

dez said...

Quick clarification to anon:
Worldwide Pants does not have "special exemptions".


This is about how Kimmel was spinning it on a radio interview this morning when he was grousing about Letterman having writers and his show being without them. To which I can only quote Nelson Muntz: "HA ha!"

olucy said...

It's one thing for the talk show hosts to come back to help keep their staffs employed. But how is Stewart going to justify hosting the Oscars now? Anyone think that's still going to happen?

Nicole said...

I don't think Stewart can justify hosting the Oscars. With TDS, he is under contract, which I don't think is the case to host the Oscars. Besides, if the strike is still going on and few if any nominees show up, why would he want to be associated with that fiasco?

The Academy Awards show is I think the WGA's best card to get this done now and if a deal isn't in place by then, this will be a very long strike.
I suspect the lost revenue and Golden Globes mess will prod some of the hold offs to talk. Or at least I hope it does.

filmcricket said...

Thanks for the link, R.A. Porter, that was illuminating.

Can you perhaps answer another question, then: are the media reports wrong that say WWP doesn't own internet distribution rights over Letterman's and Ferguson's shows? Because if the reports are correct, it doesn't matter what kind of deal was worked out, 2.5% of nothing is still nothing. And if that's the case, then, again, I don't see the material difference between going back to work for CBS and going back to work for Comedy Central, in terms of what the writers' paycheques are going to look like.

According to the New York Times, the reason the WGA didn't want to do a deal just for The Daily Show and the Report was that they wanted to include all guild shows at Comedy Central in their agreement and CC (or Viacom) refused. I can see their reasoning, if that's the case: don't put the two cash cows back on while everyone else is still out.

on the dole said...

FYI, Jon Stewart is also supposed to host a gala tribute to the head of Viacom in February. Maybe Stewart is just a big supporter of the Paley Center for Media, which gets the proceeds from the event, but I can't imagine this kind of thing makes the WGA feel like Stewart is the staunch strike supporter he claims to be. Details:

A Gala Evening
In Honor of Sumner Redstone
Hosted by Jon Stewart
Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Paley Center for Media will honor Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corporation, at its annual gala in New York. The gala will be held on Thursday, February 7, 2008, at 6:30 pm, at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Paley Center's work to lead the discussion about the creative and social relevance of television, radio, and emerging platforms in today's world.

R.A. Porter said...

filmcricket: As a caveat, I'm certainly no expert on the terms of the deal, but I've tried to remain as informed as possible. As I understood it, WWP is covering the 2.5% in new media reuse until Viacom/CBS is a signatory and then takes over that responsibility.

filmcricket said...

R.A. Porter, thanks very much. That's what I figured, and that's was why I was wondering why a similar deal with Busboy or Comedy Central would not be acceptable, if they were willing to pay. I know Jon doesn't own his show, but I'm sure his writers would take his money if they can't get Viacom's.

However, in light of the NY Times article, I can understand that because TDS and TCR mean more to Comedy Central's bottom line than Letterman does to CBS, the WGA would want to use those shows as a bargaining chip with CC. I understand the strategy a bit more, now.

Doesn't mean I don't still feel sorry for Jon, though.

T. said...

I think as this goes on, it's the studios that will get the blame, not the writers. Come on, that percentage point of residuals for DVD sales is really going to break the bank for them?

The only good side to all this was no Stewart and Colbert for a while though, so lame yuppies had nothing to quote and smugly laugh about at water coolers and Upper West Side dinner parties for a little while.

Dennis Wilson said...

Anonymous 11:51 a.m. said: "It sounds to me like the WGA was counting on some type of massive public backlash which hasn't materialized."

Not exactly. Public support is nice, but the only thing we're counting on is the TV and movie studios' need for scripts.

Which brings us to Anonymous 12:29 p.m., who asks, "At what point in the TV year do the writers regain leverage?"

We have as much leverage today as we've had all along. If the AMPTP member companies want to continue producing scripted programming -- which is that's what they're in the business of -- they have to come make a deal with us.

Otherwise, not much to add to what R.A. Porter has so ably stated throughout.

Anonymous said...

I'm not clear on how public backlash against the studios would even matter to them. It's not like people will actually stop watching NBC or going to Paramount movies or something. That type of thing just doesn't happen in this country. Not that I'm happy about that.

Grim said...

I disagree with you there t.

It seems to me that at first everyone was on the writers' side, apart from people who favor liberal economics. The problem is that the public at large haven't been educated well on the matter at hand and it appears that they are getting fed up with the guild.

There is a real problem with normal people seeing the actual worth in holding out, and affecting other blue-collar workers, for 3C on a DVD or iTunes sale. Especially as the writers are fairly well paid, (yes their job security isn't high but it is a profession they chose).