Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Writers' Strike Imminent?

Over the past few days, the Writers Guild of America sent out letters and e-mails to its membership asking for authorization for a potential strike, tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

With the contract between the WGA and the studios due to end Oct. 31, there are huge issues dividing the two parties, most notably, new media platforms and compensation. In other words, how much of the $1.99 does the writer get when you download a TV show or movie off iTunes?

It's a question that isn't going away, and with the actors' and directors' guilds contracts due to end next year, Hollywood hasn't heard the last of this issue no matter how the WGA deal shakes out.

So, why am I telling you all this? Originally, it was assumed that the WGA would wait to hold their strike until next June, to go in conjuction with the other two guilds. For the studios, it gave them more breathing room - by then, the TV seasons would be complete and they would have an extra eight months to stockpile movie scripts and get more projects in the can.

But now with only a window of a month to settle the dispute, movie projects all over Hollywood may be shut down and the networks are going to have to scramble to fill in programming, since most TV series will only have no more than a dozen episodes (probably less) in the can before a strike. Shows like "Heroes," which had planned on going the entire season without airing reruns, may now be forced to reconsider those plans. And the schedule will likely be full of reality style programming (another issue as the WGA wants those producers subject to WGA rules).

For the average TV and movie viewer, it's looming to be a gloomy holiday season, and the two sides seem far enough apart that this won't be resolved easily.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Our motto at the TVGuy should be "We watch awful TV so you don't have to." (No thanks necessary, but I do accept tips.)

ABC, which hasn't had a good half-hour comedy in a long while, launches two more tonight that will likely extend that streak. The much publicized "Cavemen," based on the Geico commercials, debuts tonight (ABC, 8 p.m.) followed by "Carpoolers" at 8:30 p.m.

"Cavemen" wasn't sent out in advance to critics, never a good sign, and the original pilot was so panned that it had to be entirely reshot. As a result, the series takes place in San Diego instead of Atlanta, the original setting.

"Carpoolers" stars Jerry O'Connell as part of a quartet of guys who share a ride to work each day. It's supposed to be a buddy series about male bonding, but it falls completely flat. The humor is lame and the situations these guys find themselves in border on the ridiculous. Between "Carpoolers" and "Big Shots," ABC really ought to stay out of the male bonding genre — they really suck at it.

Those shows are followed by ratings juggernaut "Dancing With The Stars" and Emmy favorite "Boston Legal."

Fortunately, you the viewer has plenty of good options tonight. Fox has the best lineup with new episodes of "Bones" at 8 p.m. and "House" at 9 p.m., as our favorite curmudgeonly physician puts 40 candidates through the job interview from hell.

"NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) wrapped up its season arc from last year a little too neatly for my taste, considering we won't be seeing any more of Armand Assante's guns dealer after a year's worth of buildup. It's followed by "The Unit" and "Cane."

Perhaps gearing up for the writers' strike, NBC has a 90-minute "Biggest Loser" beginning at 8 p.m. followed by "The Singing Bee" before it finally airs a dramatic show in "Law& Order: SVU" at 10 p.m.

Hopefully, you caught the pilot last week to one of TV's best new shows in "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.), but if you didn't, it's not too late to catch up with it now.

Finally, last, but certainly not least, Ken Burns' "The War" (PBS, 8 p.m.) continues tonight with victory in Europe and the death of FDR.

12 comments:

zodin2008 said...

Thanks for the tip about "House" being on tonight. I will be sure to watch REAPER at 9 PM.

(humorous remark detected...)

The writer's strike sounds REALLY depressing and it being moved up to 11-1-07 rather than next June really sucks big time.

I guess now I am relieved that Comcast cut me a new bundle package deal and now I have Showtime and Starz, along with HBO. I am gonna need it.

Jonathan said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found "NCIS" to be a little anti-climatic last week, and to kill off Assante like that, and we didn't even get to see it happen was annoying. Armand might not have a ton of range, but he can play a top ranked goon as good as anyone, and it would have been nice to at least have the possibility of his return. And was I the only one that thought Tony got out of that situation a little too easy even if the quip on the elevator "Hey! My car blew up today, did you do that?" was nice?

I noticed you hadn't commented on the past two "Heroes" episodes yet; I was curious what your thoughts were? I've been a tad underwhelmed, although I think last night's installment was a lot more intriguing than the season premiere. I've loved the first two episodes of "Chuck" and "Journeyman;" that is shaping up to be one hell of a night for NBC assuming they keep all three on the air for the remainder of the season, and of course, the writer's strike looming doesn't help that cause.

No interest in "Caveman" or anything with Jerry O'Connell in it, so think I'll be skipping those two. Loved the season premiere of "Bones." Was a little worried when I first heard about the season long serial killer arc, since "CSI" (Yes, I do enjoy that show, Zod.) did the same thing last year, but I like the set-up; it could go in a lot of different directions, and I am intrigued.

Oh, and Zod, I not only have those three channels, but I also have the Movie Channel and Cinemax stations, and trust me, there is rarely anything on.

zodin2008 said...

Jonathan,

I have enjoyed "Heroes" overall, but underwhelmed maybe the right word. I am enjoying it more than "Chuck" - I didn't really love the 2nd episode and I am just not sure "Chuck" is a show I can fall in love with.

I guess it doesn't help that I so adore "How I Met Your Mother" at 8 PM, that watching "Chuck" on DVR right after feels really anti climactic - so far.

I have about 8-10 movies right now stored in my DVR 'que' that I never ever have time for - if there's a writer's strike, you can better believe I will be watching those and maybe even re-starting a Netflix membership. Who knows?

I am PRAYING they get this strike worked out.

Phillip Ramati said...

The reason why I haven't gotten into reviews of returning shows yet is two-fold: 1) I've been too busy trying to get through all of DVDs I have to preview the new shows coming on the air (I want the hour of my life back from having to watch Big Shots, BTW), and 2) For the returning shows, especially serialized ones, I wanted to wait for them to get a few episodes in before analyzing them at any great depth.

But, since you asked, I've been satisfied with Heroes so far. Has it reached the heights it did in the latter half of the first season? Certainly not. But the very nature of this show is laying down storylines, then building from the ground up. And the first two weeks have demonstrated that there is a lot of potential in Season 2. The Hiro stuff, particularly new cast member David Anders, has been fantastic, and there's some intriguing stuff going on with the company. The Claire stuff has been a bit underwhelming, but it's developing at a fairly quick pace (plus, you had the cool toe thing last night).

Of course, Kring & Co. are trying to integrate new characters, like the Irish mob and the Mexican twins, which will take some time, but you hope there's some payoff. Like season 1, everything is working toward a slow build, so I am still eager to follow it.

zodin2008 said...

The Central American twins is definitely a big mistake. That's where "Heroes" has REALLY lost me.

This is such a huge sprawling cast anyway, plus the show is only in year #2, having large chunks os time devoted to new castmembers that aren't (yet) anyway involved with the old castmembers - is tedious.

The other character and story that I am finding tedious is Mohinder. He was a necessary character in season #1 but his character is preachy and kind of boring. I could do without him and frankly the whole 'My 2 Dads' thing with Matt as well.

The only segments where Mohinder interests me is when he is interacting with HRG on the phone...that's mainly because HRG is involved and in my eyes, Jack Coleman can do no wrong. In fact, I would go as far to say that HRG/Mr. Bennett is the John Locke of "Heroes".

I am fine with the Bennett stroyline in general, though I hate when I am supposed to care right away about some random new boyfriend for Claire...part of the problem is I don't like the actor (at all) playing West. Just one of those types I generally find obnoxious. Always happy to see the Bennett family.

The stuff with the Petrellis, even the Ireland stuff is very entertaining. The stuff with Ando and the murder mystery but especially Hiro and David Anders is fantastic stuff - we agree, phillip - Hiro and David Anders is the best part of the show.

Anders was always a bad guy on "Alias", but he was the SPIKE ("Buffy" reference of course) of "Alias" in that the actor was so beloved on the show and the character of Sark was so entertaining, the "Alias" producers (like Spike on "Buffy") kept finding creative ways to work him back into the series so "Alias" fans could get their Sark fix.

I am not surprised he'd be an intsant ball of fun on "Heroes" - same way James Marsters (what's it with skinny guys from California doing fake Brit accents that make all the fans happy?) has always been a welcome presence now on "Smallville" and is such a beloved actor, they want to keep bringing him back.

I only hope that when it's finally time to send Hiro back to 2007, maybe he could accidentally bring David Anders back with him!

Jonathan said...

I agree that "Heroes" is more of a slow build-up than say a procedural, and I prefer that in the long run. My problem is usually there will still be something that happens in each episode that will stand out and make you say, Damn!!! or whatever. I haven't had that moment of zen, if you will, yet on "Heroes." But obviously I only compare "Heroes" episodes to past ones, and even the worst episode of "Heroes" is better than 90% of what's on television right now. I just wish there was a little more oomph to the first two installments of a new season; this is definately not the route to go to get more new viewers, but maybe that's not a priority. Who knows?

But I agree that David Anders has been a perfect counterpart to Hiro, but is anyone shocked that this guy is standing out? Kristin Bell, who I'm sure will also stand out is not supposed to pop up until episode 5, and she will be in Ireland, so I assume that Peter will be sticking in the land of leprechauns for awhile longer. I have no opinon of the brother and sister characters yet; I'm just waiting to see where they take their story, but nothing about them has excited me yet. I have a feeling they will have something to do with the virus. And maybe I'm just forgetting some season one story arcs, but I felt that Mohinder made the virus out to be a bigger deal in the season premiere, and then we find out last night only three people have gotten it. That seemed a little strange, but maybe I've just forgotten something.

Phillip Ramati said...

I haven't minded the Mohinder stuff, because obviously the main storyline this year is going to center around the stuff happening with the company, and how Parkman/Mohinder/Bennett look to take them down.

The biggest thing missing from Heroes this season? The kick-ass plot twist moments that came at the end of each episode last year, like when Claire woke up on a lab table with her chest ripped open.

But there have been more positives than negatives this season so far.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice the passing reference to "Lost" on Monday night's "Chuck"? When shown some of the images from the Governemnt Database Chuck says, "Oceanic Flight 815 was shot down by..." the rest was unintelligible. It would be intersting to look at production company relationships to see if this was some sort of plant or if the producers of "Chuck" were just fooling around.

zodin2008 said...

anonymous-

YES!!!!! My wife and I both yelped (and laughed) when they did that. I love when the 'cool' fun shows on TV - like Chuck, Lost and Heroes - are all referencing one another. Speaking of 'cool, fun' shows, no show was BETTER at referencing other shows in the vein of pop culture than "Veronica Mars".

But definitely YES, head the 'Oceanic 815' thing and thought that was awesome. (probably my favorite moment in "Chuck" this week - but it maybe a negative since my favorite moment involved discussing a show I like far more and that we are missing until freaking February!).

Phillip, I think Claire cutting off her toe and it growing back (ewwwwww) qualifies as one of those 'moments' but yes, nothing will ever compare to the shock factor of Claire being split open on a surgery table last year - it was one of those iconic moments.

zodin2008 said...

Speaking of "Heroes" and TV shows in general, it's very interesting to me to see the fight going on over ratings claims.

You have, for example, the Wednesday night at 9 PM fight - "Private Practice" claims victory because they have the overall numbers (but far worse than sister show "Grey's Anatomy"), but you have "Bionic Woman" claiming it's own victory because it's winning the 18-34 year old set.

Then there's a big fight going on about counting re-broadcast of shows on Fridays and Saturdays.

The TV Ratings folks have said that if a show (like "Heroes") airs on Monday night, and then re-airs the exact same episode on Saturday 9with the same advertisers) it can now ADD IN those extra numbers. You can better believe NBC WILL be promoting any extra say 2-3 million folks they may add on Saturday.

Plus, if you think about the typical Demo that maybe home on Saturday night and watching SNL later (yes, Phillip, many of us watch it and you will this week with host Seth Rogen) shows like "Bionic Woman", "Chuck" and "Heroes" should all repeat well on Saturday night. Let's face it, thos eshows also have a lot of people who dress up like Mister Spock and go to conventions.

The other bone of contention about RATINGS is of course DVR'S.

On one hand, a network like NBC or ABC want to add any numbers they can from DVR playbacks - hey, such and such show started with 11 million people, but another 3 million played it back on the DVR later in the week so this show really had 14 million - I get thatbut the flipside to the argument of course is that if you count the DVR playback of a show like "The Office", then advertisers will say that people are skipping all the Toyota and Staples and Budweiser Asd airing in the episode.

It's a stalemate at this point.

The only solution that I have mentioned before is what I have seen from more and more TV shows the last few years and it's the only way for advertisers to get their money's worth in the age of DVR: product placement.

I have seen it a lot the last 2-3 years with "Smallville" (Acue Vue and Toyota Yaris come to mind) and I think "Smallville" did a bad job because they OVERDID it. Same with "Smart Water" clearly purchasing 2 episodes of "Rescue Me" this summer.

I think TV shows need to be careful on this slippery slope. On one hand, you have shows like "Rescue Me" and "Smallville" making it SO blatant, that it's really annoying and now I am less likely to buy "Smart Water". On the other hand, if we all want less commercials or advertisers to 'accept' DVR playbacks, then product placement is in our futures.

What concerns me is for it to go overboard where you see like a Coca Cola logo on Michael Scott's suit jacket or something where it's pathetic like Nascar.

Just food for thought.

Phillip Ramati said...

I did notice the Lost reference on Chuck. Also, Moonlight had action that took place at Hearst College, something very familiar to Veronica Mars fans.

zodin2008 said...

Phillip-

Yes, I totally forgot to mention that as well about "Moonlight" - an obvious IN joke at co-star Jason Dohring.