Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stewart and Colbert get back in the game

Over at the blog, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announce their intention to return to work on Jan. 7, strike or no strike.


Anonymous said...

Union issues aside, this is good news. Though Alan, I don't think the link works.

Chris Littmann said...

Ditto on the dead link.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Link should hopefully work now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm a fan of both these guys and all, but a scab's a scab is a scab. You only win in these situations when everyone sticks together - all Stewart and Colbert are doing is helping the studios' at the expense of the writers. Why put on a reduced show unless you think that it's possible to make good TV without writers? Really disappointing.

Nicole said...

I am torn. While happy to have them back, they are crossing the picket line, unless they can swing some kind of deal like Letterman. With Leno, O'Brien and Kimmel back in January, if Colbert and Stewart don't come back, they risk losing what audience they do have to those shows who might not tune back in if they return much later.

I just don't understand why the talks have been so sporadic. If both were forced by an arbitrator to negotiate until there was a resolution this would be finished in no time.

If people aren't even in the same room, nothing is going to get resolved.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you do not cross a picket line.

A SCAB is a SCAB, what ever your political leanings.

I am sad to hear of this.

MikeNZ said...

A part of me really really hates to get into this. So I shouldn't you say and maybe you'd be right. I am here in New Zealand and about the only real impact this has on me is my ability to catch the episodes of the shows I like that I'm missing. Probably much the same though as many Americans. Though yes a good number are actually affected by this in one direct way or another.

What really concerns me in this is I have been reading - and reading a LOT. And in all of what I have read it started pretty ho hum for the Writers' Guild and it's just getting worse. You go into a negotiation during a strike holding up high the principle that internet downloads - rental and purchase, streaming media and free advertisement based downloads are all outside your current negotiated package and are the basis for what you want to negotiate on because currently you're getting nothing for them. I'm with you all the way.

Why then WHY - no hell, WHY on EARTH bring into the picture utter demands that your union MUST now also represent Animation and Reality TV staff, people who are not now part of your union because as a group they CHOSE not to be. How on earth do the producers EVER approve that even if it wasn't utterly ridiculous that you are demanding people go against their collective OWN will?

Why stop there though, when you can demand that your union must also be given the right to go out on strike in support of any other union it sees fit to add to the bargaining table, a provision also not in the current agreement. So we will settle this strike so long as at any at other time we see ft we can basically RESUME it? Hell yeah what a great idea lets all sign our brains away.

But they did get back to the actual topic of payment for the net based stuff. They said it must be based on what is DEEMED to be the actual average amount a studio MIGHT get from each internet transaction. DEEMED by some third party not based on actual figures. Leaving the producers being asked to sign an agreement based on making payments for these internet transactions that could well never be relevant to the actual money they receive. What about saying we want X percent of ACTUAL sales figures and we want them reviewed in Y way based on the real figures. Seem to logical - obviously it does for the Writers Guild.

Unions are supposed to SUPPORT their members. So far from 8000 miles away all I see is a union ignoring the real needs of its members for the sake of making itself look like the damned damsel in distress against the evil ogre. Most Hollywood columists are agreeing they aren't playing it at ALL smart. The Directors Guild has put off negotiations with the producers and now even they have had enough and will start talks in the new year. That could well set a precedent for what values are going to end up being used, meaning the Writers Guild end up losing most of their negotiating power.

Nobody is blameless in all of this, but for god's sake don't blame the Talk Show leads. These guys all earn big money - and almost without exception every single one of them have in the last 7 weeks or so forked out HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars of their OWN money continuing to pay their own staff. They do support the writers but you can only support a good cause for so long when its being lead by a group of people that cant see the real cause they are fighting for from the blinding light of their own polished halo's as they pronounce themselves angels. If it was me and it was my country I'd be as proud as hell for what the likes of Leno and Letterman have done and I'd FULLY understand why they have to go back to work - for the good of the MAJORITY of their staff. From where I sit those that mock and criticize them are in effect simply throwing away the basis of all that is good in your country, and trust me from the general view outside the states you need every bit of it you can grasp.

Anonymous said...

The thing I don't understand in the comments about the strike is how the writers have a monopoly on these programs. Do the other staff at the show not have a say in if they get paid? Because the writers want a raise, show staff should show solidarity and somehow get by with very limited money for their families. The one thing that bothered me from the start with the WGA strike was the timing. They wanted a strike, IMO, for a process story (which I'm guessing will be coming any day now) about how some cameraman's family is having a Christmas on a very minimum budget and having to make it work because of the evil studios. I supported the WGA's position at the beginning, but as time goes on and I read more, I've begun to favor the studios. Animated and reality writers as well? The WGA has painted themselves into a corner where they need a homerun, and that's not going to happen.

Nicole said...

Let's keep in mind that the other staff not on strike could still be getting paid by the studios but that it's the studios laying them off right now, not the writers. The studios are still making money and certainly enough to continue paying the wages, especially if certain individual production companies are able to still pay their wages. This is just a tactic that management uses to make the strikers look bad and it happens in every industry.

I won't comment on the other issues, except to repeat that if neither side is talking, then it doesn't even matter what the ostensible issues are, nothing will get done. Wasn't the Governator talking about getting both sides to talk? Perhaps he should use his pull in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Although I myself have no problem with anyone crossing a picket line, I think it is difficult to support the writers and the strike while simultaneously airing your television show. Either Stewart, Kimmel, Colbert and the rest support the strike and will live with the consequences, or they don't. There doesn't appear to be any middle ground. The leverage the writers have is that there is to be no new programming save for reality. What Colbert and the other hosts are doing is diluting the efforts of the strikers by appearing on television. I'm all for that, but it doesn't seem at all consistent if you support the writers or the strike. Can they do this as WGA members themselves (which I assume most of the hosts are)?

Tom said...

What you are seeing with the talk show heads coming back to work is a very public display of the tension within the WGA between the big-earners and the not-so-big earners. This tension dictates the AMPTP's strategy.

The bottom line is that the main creative forces behind any TV show, the chief writers (AKA showrunners) are EXTREMELY well-paid, and take most of their compensation not as writers but as producers. The core financial issue for the WGA (residuals) means far less to them financially than the need to keep their franchises on the air and healthy. After the leadership of the WGA called the strike while the negotiations were still going on, the AMPTP knew that, from that moment, the clock was ticking and that at some point in the not-too-distant future (February? March?) the financial pressure from the show-runners would force the WGA back to the negotiation table on the AMPTP's terms. The WGA's strategy of keeping jurisdictional issues on the table along with the core financial issues merely hands the AMPTP a ready-made pretext to keep the WGA on ice till the DGA strikes a deal and the show-runners say enough already.

What's especially mind-boggling from the writers' perspective is that the media conglomerates may use this strike as the pretext to radically scale back their pilot development process, which was a gravy train for many, many writers.

The WGA leaders may be great at plotting out a script, but they're not the savviest negotiators I've ever seen. Divide and conquer. Who could have seen THAT coming?

Anonymous said...

So I have tickets for January 17. Do I go? Am I going to be crossing a picket line?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Am I going to be crossing a picket line?

If the strike's still on -- which I'm sure it will be -- I imagine you'll have to cross a picket.

Anonymous said...

Screw them.

If they become scabs they're off my Christmas list as well as my TV watching list.

All hail David Letterman.

Anonymous said...

Tom, your analysis is well-reasoned, but ill-informed on one point. There is zero tension between the big earners and the not-so-big earners within the WGA this time around. I've marched at every picket line in town, attended all the rallies and spoken to every writer I've met, big-name and small. Those divisions just aren't there.

And Mikenz, the notion that animation and reality-TV writers don't want to be eligible to join the WGA is a flat-out falsehood. There are reasons why folding them into the WGA may not be possible, most having to do with the jurisdiction of another entertainment union, but the idea that those writers have rejected WGA membership is wrong.

Anonymous said...

If these big stars going back on the air during the strike helps bust the union, more power to them!

Anonymous said...


That is technically true, but in what reality would a business pay staff who aren't actually working for them. The studios could pay the camera guys and the editors and everyone else, but they don't owe anyone a duty to do so and nor should they.

It is a fact of the strike that it is trying to good for the guild members but it is having a negative impact on a considerable number of people

Anonymous said...

... so. When the IATSE or SAG decides to strike, the WGA should continue to have its members write scripts, because they shouldn't suffer the financial harm caused by other striking unions?

Is the IATSE better than the WGA, because the truck drivers and show staff are hunkier? Prettier? More working class, even though salaries fluctuate among all ranks of the industry, which is why the studios can attempt to divide and conquer so easily? Is it because the IATSE strikes so little and asks for so little during its negotiations that it could be seen as a company union, in all but name?

It seems that these newbie posters, some legit, some the usual AMPTP spambots, most likely are concerned with how bad the negotiations have gone, when the AMPTP has known that it will face contract renegotiations with all the major craft unions within a 12-month period.

Is it too subtle to think that they were prepared to obstruct negotiations, to force a universal rollback in terms? Do we need the blatant proof of a producer anti-union fund, such as the one chipped out of 'restoration fees' from each Bway ticket, to see that several multinational corporations want to attempt to break the craft unions' power, before the Internet changes the economics of Hollywood permanently?

And Nicole, there is an federal arbitrator? Remember, DHD noted he practiced martial arts and everything. Unfortunately, he works for the Bush Administration, which means he has all the power of a bucket of warm spit, and just as much direction to act on behalf of the workers without paychecks.

And, ain't it peculiar how all the 'let's get back to work' apologists in this post don't mention that the studios all held lavish holiday parties last week -- WGA members aren't earning money, along with everyone else, except the bosses who want us not to notice how much fun *they're* having not being on a picket line, eating and drinking and patting each other on the back for not working.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break! It's not the writers' money!!! If they're going to submit themselves to collective bargaining, this is what they get. I'm happy Leno, et. al. are going back on; maybe it will force someones hand and put an end to the "poor me" syndrome of the writers.

Tom said...


It's heartening to hear that there's unity on the picket line between all of the WGA members. Still, the tensions I was referring to are economic, not social. Perhaps the return of Colbert, Stewart et. al. isn't a harbinger of coming dissension within the WGA ranks. I wouldn't bet on it the way the WGA leaders have.

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a union family and my father before me. I became a professional in a union.

Needless to say I am extremely disappointed in Stewart and Colbert. what a shame.

T. said...

I think the only way anyone can find those two funny is if they're an effete liberal. That way you are so happy at how they're parroting your viewpoint constantly that you are oblivious to their lameness. SInce I'm not liberal, I find them painful to watch and horribly overrated.