Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Strike Fallout

My brother asked me a relatively complex question last night: If I were Jay Leno, how would I have handled the current WGA situation?

It's a fair question. Leno has essentially been forced to return to work on "The Tonight Show," with NBC threatening to fire the below-the-line talent (the cameramen, the sound guys, etc.) if he didn't. But doing so means cross the Writers' Guild picket lines and producing a less-than-stellar product, since he has no writers and much of Hollywood's A-list stars are boycotting the talk shows that haven't worked out a deal with the WGA.

Leno, who has been pretty vocal in his support of the union, made headlines yesterday when it was announced that he and fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will be appearing as guests on each other's show Thursday night. (Kimmel has been far less supporting of the union.)

It's difficult to answer as to what Leno should have done. By staying off the air, he strengthens the union's position but puts a lot of people out of work. By going on the air, he keeps the show going, but undermines the union's position - the more shows returning to the air without the WGA's waiver, the weaker the WGA's bargaining position is.

Fellow late night host David Letterman owns his own production company, Worldwide Pants, which produces both "The Late Show" and "The Late, Late Show" with Craig Ferguson. Worldwide Pants struck a deal last week with the WGA that allows both shows to go back to work with full writing staffs, meaning both shows not only return to the air at full strength, but are in prime position to get the biggest names in show business as their guests.

So what would I have done in Leno's position? I'd have sat down with the union and explained the dilemma. I'd have said that my hand was being forced and I had to return to work. But what I would have done would have been to make WGA president Patric Verrone my first guest and said he had the whole first segment of the first show back to defend the union's position - essentially 10 or 15 minutes of free air time on TV's No. 1-rated talk show to plead his side's cause.

Maybe the network wouldn't have gone for this, and perhaps the union wouldn't either, but that might have been a compromise to offer.

All I know is that there really are no winners in this clash - not the viewers, not the WGA, not the networks even, since they risk devaluing their own products by putting them out there with no writers and few guests to choose from.

Meanwhile, it was made official yesterday when the Golden Globes awards show was cancelled. Instead, there will be a one-hour news conference that will announce the winners and allow them to speak with the media. On the one hand, we really don't need another awards show, and as I've pointed out here numerous times, the Foreign Press Association makes some pretty lame picks anyway.

On the other hand, the Globes are pretty prestigious, and if you win one, this might be the only time in your life you ever do. It might be nice to put on a tux or a gown and receive your statuette in front of 20 million people.

No word yet on how talks between the WGA and the producers for the Oscars are progressing.

RETURNING TO WORK: Two of TV's biggest hostesses returned to work Monday after maternity leave. Elisabeth Hasselbeck is back on "The View," while Macon's own Nancy Grace is back on her CNN Headline News program.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Last spring, the CW was floated an idea about advancing the plots of two of its series ahead four years in time as a means of avoiding cancellation. One series was the highly acclaimed "Veronica Mars." The other was the teen soap opera "One Tree Hill." Guess which one the CW decided to keep?

"One Tree Hill" airs two new episodes tonight, including the season premiere which finds Chad Michael Murray & Co. out of high school and moving on with their lives. Meanwhile, the cool mini-episode of "Veronica Mars," which found our plucky heroine as a rookie FBI agent, is condemned to float for eternity around the Internet.

OK, folks, fair warning: CBS continues to plug new episodes of its shows only to yank them for reruns at the last minute. So tonight's "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is supposed to be a new one; whether it is or not remains to be seen. It's followed by the most ridiculous awards in show business, the People's Choice Awards, which are quite literally a popularity contest and nothing more.

ABC is all-new with "According To Jim" at 9 p.m., followed by "Carpoolers" and "Boston Legal," proof that the writers need to return to work pretty darn quick.

NBC is kicking off its newest edition of "The Biggest Loser" at 8 p.m., still for me TV's most offensive show, followed by a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m.

The pick of the night, as always, is "Life On Mars" (BBC America, 9 p.m.)

And finally, if you missed them the first time around, now is the time to catch up with some hit shows you may have heard about. Fox is re-airing the pilots of "Bones" and "House" at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively, so now is your chance to catch them.


Jonathan said...

I guess one good thing that could come out of this is that Letterman actually starts getting better ratings than Leno which would be a plus in my book.

But I agree completely with the whole situation; it's frustrating no matter which side you take.

Also, I thought I should mention that the VM mini-FBI episode is on the 3rd Season DVD set which should already be owned by all the fans I guess. But for the Netflix users, thought I would throw that out there.

zodin2008 said...


Which Disk is the mini pilot on? I have a Netflix membership again (thanks to the strike and lack of shows) and I will at least order up the disk with the mini pilot.

There are losers in this strike - us the viewers. And I wholeheartedly support & feel for poor jay Leno, who said it best during his Wednesday night monologue: he came back to save the jobs of 81 people over the jobs of 19 people.

Good for you, Jay.

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the tip about the VM DVDs. You can also find it online. I know I provided a link a couple of months ago.

I'm also a Letterman fan, so I hope he can close the late night gap during the strike.