Monday, February 11, 2008

Writers Return To Work!

Though the new contract has yet to be voted on by membership, the deal between the studios and the Writers Guild of America was approved by the head honchos of both the East and West branches, making Tuesday's official vote to end the strike a mere formality. Showrunners on pretty much all TV series have already returned to work to begin writing and rehiring crews.

So, after nearly four months of labor strife, was it all worth it? The industry suffered over $1 billion in losses during the strike. Not only the writers went unpaid, but so did the below-the-line talent (the grips, the cameramen, the technicians, the costume designers, etc.) Companies that depend on Hollywood's business - car rental companies, restaurants and so forth - also lost a tremendous amount.

Without hearing details of the contract, it's hard to tell how successful the strike was. Several writers interviewed after the big WGA meetings over the weekend said the guild got most, but not all, of what it was seeking, but did have to make several concessions. The WGA had to give up its demands it was seeking on animation deals and writers for reality shows, for example.

So, who won? Well, no one, really. Any side claiming victory can only claim, at best, a pyrrhic victoy. While the writers got most of what they wanted, they lost a lot of money in the process and many writer/producers lost their studio deals when the producers declared a force majeure to cancel their contracts.

The studios lost viewership. And the viewers lost chunks out of their TV series, as nearly all of the shows on the air will have to reduce the number of episodes they were originally supposed to air. Instead, we've been subjected to so-called reality TV.

And that might be the single biggest negative impact of the strike, long-term damage the WGA really couldn't account for. Networks were able to flood the airwaves with shows like "American Gladiators" or ramp up the number of "Deal or No Deal" episodes they would show in a week and found that viewership didn't change all that much.

For a quality, but ratings challenged show like "Friday Night Lights," that's not good news at all. The network suits are discovering they'd rather save the money and order more "American Gladiators" than commit to something like "FNL" because it makes more sense financially. Most networks have already cut the money to develop pilots for next season.

The strike may be over, but the impact will be felt for years to come.

"FNL" UPDATE: Speaking of "FNL," though the season is likely over, the series may not be. Word has been spreading that it may be shopped to another network if NBC decides not to pick it up. Or, NBC may pick it up and run it on one of its cable networks, like USA, such as it does with "Law & Order: CI."

I don't carry high hopes with either scenario. NBC head Ben Silverman has shown little love for the series, and very rarely do shows jump networks successfully. The last one I can think of that did so successfully was "JAG," which switched from NBC to CBS over a decade ago and had a long run on the latter network.

Fans' best bet is to let NBC know that you want "FNL" back. Here's a good way to do so:

Fan campaigns have had varying success over the years. "Jericho" returns to CBS this week thanks in large part to fans sending in packets of nuts to the network. But a campaign a couple of years ago in which thousands of "Angel" fans organized blood drives (still one of the cleverest ideas I can think of) fell upon deaf ears at the WB. But it never hurts to try.

R.I.P. ROY SCHEIDER: The actor, who died from an undisclosed illness, was 75. Scheider was an actor I always enjoyed and who always did great work. The "bigger boat" line from "Jaws" is still one of the greatest movie quotes of all time.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The gang goes over the wall (or rather, under it) during its breakout on "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.), while Brian Austin Green guest stars on "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" at 9 p.m. It's so hard to stop myself making a "90210" joke right now.

What better way to pump up ratings than linking yourself to "High School Musical?" That's what they are doing on "Dance War" (ABC, 8 p.m.) as the cast of "HSM" performs. It's followed by "Notes From the Underbelly" and "October Road."

CBS has new episodes of "Welcome to the Captain" and "Old Christine" at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., but please do yourself a favor and only watch the latter.

On cable, "Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) is new, followed by a new "Wildfire" at 9 p.m.

Finally, if you missed "Jericho" last season and want to catch up a bit, Sci Fi is showing four episodes, beginning with the pilot, tonight beginning at 7 p.m.


zodin2008 said...

I am hopeful that NBC just goes ahead and shops FNL to antoher network. The fact is, maybe someone who's less of an east Coast biased, egomaniacle a--hole than Ben Silverman and Zucker, may appreciate what an amazing show FNL is.

The fact that "American Gladiators" is far more popular than a show like FNL, is only an indictment over the lack of intelligence of the average American Television viewer.

Then again, as evidenced by voting numbers, Americans are easily swayed by fancy speeches that don't say much, rather than voting for Presidential candidates with substance.

Scheider was a terrific actor - he will be missed. My wife & I just recently watched a "Law & order: Criminal intent" he guest starred on as a killer photographer of models over a 40 year period - with the show ending with a nice twist that this serial killer played by Scheider, may or may not in fact be the character of Det. Robert Goren's (Vincent D'Onfrio's) father.

zodin2008 said...

As for the strike - thank goodness it appears over.

I really hope we have a shot to get the full 16 "Lost" episodes we were originally promised.

After the fate of "Friday Night Lights", it's probably my #2 post strike concern.

Phillip Ramati said...

I don't think we're going to get the full 8 of Lost. As Michael Emerson explained it to me, it would take three weeks for production to get rolling again before they can even start filming.

Typically, it takes about 8-9 days to shoot a full episode of an hour-long drama, but shows like Lost and Heroes, which have more technical work than a regular drama, take a day or two longer.

And ABC isn't likely to burn off new Lost episodes in June, after sweeps. If we get six new Losts, I'll be happy, and maybe we'll get really lucky and they will turn the final two seasons into 17 episodes seasons rather than the planned 16 each.