The entire membership of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is still on strike, impacting more than 12,000 writers both on the East and West coasts, as well as a handful of late night television programs. The picket lines have been ongoing since Nov. 5, and are not expected to be dispersed anytime before 2008.According to the New York Times, the strike is a result of three months of “contentious negotiations.” Writers are demanding more money for their residuals for releases of films and TV shows on DVD, as well as the Internet. This request was rejected, as producers essentially claimed that the only reason that films and TV shows were doing well on other mediums was because of “industry economics and still-shifting technology,” implying that the writers are not entitled to a raise.
How will this affect viewers? Initially, late night television was only affected; The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show With David Letterman, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, all shows that are very time sensitive, have been airing re-runs since Nov. 5. Now other prime time shows are being impacted as they run out of scripts to use.
The new TBS sketch comedy show Frank TV is only airing four episodes instead of the originally intended eight, NBC’s The Office has completely halted production and while 12 episodes of Scrubs have already been completed, it is unknown whether or not their series finale will be airing next year, to which producer Bill Lawrence stated that he may release the final episode on DVD.
While actors, producers, directors and other entertainment personnel are not obligated to participate in the strike, many are showing strong support for their writers. Sally Field, current star of “Brothers and Sisters,” visited picketers outside the studio where her show was being shot.
“[Writers] are not being allowed to participate in the future of the business. This can be a very lucrative field, but also incredibly insecure for all of the artists, writers, actors and directors,” said Fields.
Other celebrities to show support include Steve Carrell and Jay Leno. Carrell refused to cross the picket line on Nov. 7, resulting in The Office being put on hiatus. Leno visited picketers to offer his support, and during his appearance he joked that the reason he didn’t have any funny lines left was because of the strike.
One celebrity to come under fire is popular daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. While DeGeneres was initially criticized for crossing the picket lines and continuing production on her show, which relies on writers for her opening monologue. Since she has continued the show and begun doing her own monologues, the WGA has become even more critical of her. DeGeneres stated that her monologues were adlibbed, to which Tony Segall of WGA West responded that they are only concerned if she writes the monologues before hand; adlibbing “doesn’t violate anything.” Still, due to hostilities that she has received from New York, she has made the decision not to tape her show there next week as originally planned, and will instead remain in Los Angeles.
“Personally, it’s heartbreaking. I love my writers; we’re a family,” said DeGeneres. “It’s really hard to have to deal with where they are and where I am because I’m kinda caught in the middle.”
Though television has been the main victim of this strike, as time goes on and negotiations continue to remain frozen, the strike is expected to impact the film industry as well. Films were not initially affected due to the fact that scripts are written a good deal of time in advance. However, one of the first film “casualties” of the strike is the film based on Dan Brown’s novel, “Angels & Demons.” According to the Economic Times, Sony has put the film on hold as they are not completely satisfied with the screenplay and have no one to edit it during the strike. The film is not expected to be released until 2009, but that will greatly depend on the outcome of the strike.
For more information on the WGA and the strike, visit www.wga.org.
Chris Pierdomenico is a fourth- year student majoring in Secondary English Education, with minors in Psychology and Film Criticism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.