I can live without TV. A strike-related gap in this season doesn’t make me too sad. It’s the human element of the current WGA strike that makes me sad: people standing up for their right to make a fair percentage of profits, knowing that in so doing, they’re quite possibly contributing to the industry’s reduced profitability as viewers — and more importantly, advertisers — drift away.
I earlier quoted WGA-supporting James Poniewozik of Time’s Tuned In blog saying that the writers and producers were dragging each other over a cliff. Now that seems truer than ever, as Fox is positively salivating at a post-Christmas lineup that includes the non-WGA American Idol and does not include much scripted competition.
Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post writes:
Citing the strike, Fox, like other studios, axed many of its overhead deals with producers. [Fox CEO Peter] Chernin said the network would save more money on those axed deals and “story costs” and by not making pilots “than we lose in potential advertising.”
Of course, the money saved by not making pilots for next season would be somewhat offset by the problems inherent to having, um, not made pilots for next season.
I suspect Chernin is not overlooking that point, and is preparing a development slate of reality-heavy shows for next season. That was the legacy of the last strike: more cheap, strike-proof shows.
But the most poignant part of the strike has nothing to do with the audience and everything to do with the people who will lose their jobs. The writers will be affected by lost wages, of course, and have a lot to lose as well as to gain from the strike. They also have a strike fund to see them through financial crises. The crew do not.
I have to keep reminding myself that I’m on the writers’ side on this. Strikes rarely bring out the best in people, and the “I drank the Kool-Aid” rantings and “we’re special” delusions can be hard to take at times. But amid the tired war analogies and dismissals of lost jobs as collateral damage — even more repugnant to consider on a Remembrance Day during a time of actual war — are articles quoting writers firm in their beliefs, but lamenting the fact that there will be hardship for those people who did not make the choice to strike.
Then there are writers like Shonda Rhimes. De Moraes quotes her reversing her position on continuing with her non-writing duties:
“I absolutely believed that I would edit our episodes . . . until a thought hit me: How can I walk a picket line and then continue to essentially work? How am I supposed to look at myself in the mirror or look at my child years from now and know that I did not have the courage of my convictions to stand up and put myself more at risk than anyone else?”
The Post reporter adds:
No word as yet from the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” cameramen, costumers, lighting crew, etc. — some of whom will be laid off if the shows go dark — in reax to multi-millionaire Rhimes’s “more at risk than anyone else” gag.
A key grip on The Office wrote to the LA Times urging both sides to get back to the bargaining table before too much damage is done:
We all know that the strike will be resolved. Eventually both sides will return to the bargaining table and make a deal. The only uncertainty is how many of our houses, livelihoods, college educations and retirement funds will pay for it.
It’s a helpless position to be in as an audience member wanting to support the people who create our favourite shows. Some fans are advocating that we help the writers find the highest cliff possible to jump off, and stop watching shows now, before we even run out of originals. That’s a nice recipe to escalate what’s already happening: since production must stop on low-rated shows like K-Ville because of the strike, there’s likely not much point starting it up again when the strike is over. Pushing Daisies got its full season renewal early as one of the strongest new series out of the gate, but ratings are eroding each week. I wonder how itchy would ABC’s trigger finger be if ratings on the not-inexpensive, not-blockbuster show suddenly plummeted. I don’t want to find out in the name of a pointless gesture.
The earnest folks at Fans for the WGA have heard from striking writers with concrete and meaningful examples of what we can do to make a difference. From CSI’s David Rambo:
The WGA currently has a $12 million strike fund. However, the people who will need assistance as this drags on longer are those in film and TV who don’t have access to the strike fund: the office assistants, crew members and actors. They will really need the help to be able to continue in support of our strike, and there’s no fund for them. There is, however, a wonderful 125-year old nonprofit organization that provides direct, confidential assistance to all entertainment professionals in need, such as those I just mentioned. It’s called the Actors Fund, and you can find out more or make a donation through their website.
If you do donate, let the Actors Fund know that your contribution is in support of those affected by the writers strike.