It’s incredible, the speed with which a story travels around the Internet, morphing as it goes. The whole process reminds me a little a lot of the old game of “telephone” where a player begins with a one sentence and passes it, ear to ear, around the room, until it reaches the last person, who says it out loud. Of course the final utterance of the sentence sounds nothing at all like the original sentence. So it has been with the wonderfully optimistic news about the Writers Guild (WGA) strike. On Friday, Nikki Finke, arising from her sickbed at Deadline Hollywood Daily reported “A very productive day” of negotiations. Finke has been ahead of the curve every step of the way during the strike.
On Saturday, the New York Times broke something more specific than mere optimism. Citing anonymous sources (there is an official press blackout surrounding the informal negotiations) the Times’ story said: “Informal talks between representatives of Hollywood’s striking writers and production companies have eliminated the major roadblocks to a new contract, which could lead to a tentative agreement as early as next week”.
On her site, Finke reported that the WGA board will be briefed tomorrow (Monday) by the WGA negotiating team and that a draft of the agreement could be ready by next Friday, sending writers back to their word processors, and actors, directors, producers, and everyone else back to the set (after gearing up again). Those are the facts (as we know them).
Yesterday afternoon, Kristin at E!Online reported that a settlement “is imminent” giving a slightly different (and more optimistic) reporting of the facts.
Last night, that became “LA Radio Reporting Writers Strike Deal” as reported by Wired. Telephone. Indeed. More like Internet. Or cell phone.
Everyone is optimistic, but jumping the gun only raises hopes when they have been dashed before. The WGA is urging caution. A letter to the Guild membership from President Partric Verrone (WGA West) and Michael Winship (WGA East) clarified the issues, and while maintaining optimism, cautioned: "We are still in talks and do not yet have a contract…When and if a tentative agreement is reached, the first thing we will do is alert our membership with an e-mail message. Until then, please disregard rumors about either the existence of an agreement or its terms.”
The WGA strike captains’ blog United Hollywood said in reporting the LA Times article that the negotiating team are "expected to present a summary of the deal points to the Board on Monday. Then, over the course of next week, the contract language will be drafted, to protect/assure everyone's understanding of the deal points insofar as possible.
"By Friday at the earliest, depending on how well the drafting goes, there could be a preliminary contract with all the most important areas covered. Despite the LA Times' assertion that contract will be 'final,' that seems to be an imprecise use of the word."
On the other hand, as of this evening as the Super Bowl is about to end, Finke is reporting that Peter Chernin, head of FOX is telling folks that the "strike is over." Curiouser and curiouser.
What does that mean for us House fans? If the strike is indeed settled, House could be back on the air by late March, allowing for another eight or so episodes of House. That would make a total of 20 episodes (only two short of the original season order of 22).
To put it in perspective, the 12th episode of season 3 aired on January 30; this season's 12th episode will air on February 5th. Last year we had two episodes in February, two in March, and then eight weeks in a row during April and May. (There were 24 episodes last year.)
I have no idea (not being an insider) how many and at what stage of completion House scripts existed as the strike began in November. I would guess there are probably several that had been nearing completion. Network insiders have suggested that it takes about six weeks to produce a new episode. That would take us in to the middle to end of March. Others are saying that up to six episodes of a series dramas are possible. That would be four episodes short of a full season.
Am I being optimistic? Yes, but I’m a hopeless optimist (or a hopeful one, anyway). Either way, I’m game. Stay tuned.