"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sofa-spud's lament

As the Hollywood screenwriter's strike drones into its 11th week, the Writer's Guild (WGA) seems to be losing public support in its struggle with the studios. Initially, audiences expressed the most concern about missing the political satire they've come to love on late-night talk shows, but now that Letterman, Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have returned to the airwaves after negotiating independent agreements to continue their shows without their striking writers, public sentiment has largely turned to apathy. A recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted online by market research firm Synovate found that 75 percent are not very concerned or not concerned at all about the TV-viewing implications of the writers strike. Indeed, many people are openly hostile to the writers, feeling that their demands are unreasonable. For example, here's a sample of comments from the online edition of today's Miami Herald:
The real "damage" is what these writers generally do to standards of taste, imagination and experimentation by churning out week after week after week of recycled, formulaic, mindless crap. If this strike has driven even one shitcom couch potato or brain-dead housewife addicted to slop operas to read a book or go for a nice walk in the sunshine, it will be a net gain for audiences all over America.

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It is good for the industry. Like a wildfire that clears the brush for new ground. Hopefully it forces most of the garbage shows and executives out of Hollywood and we get something better. How many serial killer shows can you watch. Stupid.

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The shows can't get any more stupid or worse in their banality. The network bigwigs are already addleheaded coke fans (not the diet variety). Quick: name three tv shows that are made for people with an IQ above 100.
I guess as a blog writer, I should theoretically be in solidarity with the WGA but I'm having a hard time seeing their demands as realistic. The issues are complicated, and I don't pretend to understand them fully, but the crux of the disagreement deals with how writers will be compensated for programs appearing in "new media" such as Internet downloads, streaming, smart phones, etc. The studios want to continue to pay the same percentage of residuals that they negotiated for home video (VHS/DVD) content back in the mid-1980's, but the writers are in essence demanding a "do-over". They feel like they got short-changed 20 years ago; bitter and resentful ever since, they're now unwilling to make what they see as similar concessions for "new media" distribution. Plus, the writers are asking to be paid even for non-scripted programs such as reality shows (e.g., American Idol) where there is no pre-written dialogue, which doesn't seem right to me.

As is usual with most disagreements involving compensation, it comes down to how you define the word "fair". AMPTP president Nick Counter says: "We are ready to meet at any time and remain committed to reaching a fair and reasonable deal that keeps the industry working." Meanwhile, the WGA says: "Writers want to go back to work and will do so as soon as the AMPTP returns to the negotiating table and bargains a fair deal."

In the meantime, everyone loses -- the studios, the writers, the viewers, and most of all those people who support the television and film production industry such as cast and crew members, caterers, prop and costume rental companies, and the like. Recent estimates by ABC News put the loss to the industry at over a billion dollars so far. There is some hope that contract negotiations currently underway between the studios and the Director's Guild (DGA) will lead to a deal that will serve as a model to coax the writers and studios back to the table. "I hope it sets a good template for everybody," writer Leonard Dick said of the DGA talks, as he and about 200 others picketed outside Warner Brothers. "We want to put everybody back to work. My kids are sick of seeing me around the house."

How has the strike affected you? Are you watching less TV, or channel-surfing more instead of tuning in specific programs? Are you spending more time on the Internet or (gasp!) reading? Please comment.

5 Comments:

  • At 1/18/2008 09:05:00 AM, Blogger SupaCoo said…

    I'm spending more time how to start a new writer's guild.

     
  • At 1/18/2008 09:06:00 AM, Blogger SupaCoo said…

    *ahem* So, I won't be the one starting the new writer's guild, obviously. That comment was supposed to say "I'm spending more time trying to figure out how to start a new writer's guild."

     
  • At 1/18/2008 11:57:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    I knew what you meant. :-)

     
  • At 1/18/2008 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Sphincter said…

    I don't watch much TV, so it really hasn't had any impact on me. But I did start to think it was funny when the public was somehow being "punished" by a Golden Globe show that only went an hour. Won't all these turkeys (writers, actors everybody) crap their trousers if they find out that nobody really misses them?

     
  • At 1/21/2008 01:37:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    I'm not a big fan of the tube myself, I much prefer to rent movies on DVD. The only new show this fall that I sort of miss due to the strike, though, is "Pushing Daisys" -- it had a really creative concept and a quirky, offbeat sense of humor.

     

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