Thursday , April 18 2024
Talk may be cheap, and that's exactly why AMPTP and the WGA can afford to do it.

The WGA Strike, Television, and Me

I'm not going to lie to you. I'm unhappy. I've been out of the country and/or away from home for three out of the past four weeks. I thought, I hoped, I prayed that at some point during my travels I would hear that the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) had worked out their differences and that production on scripted television shows was going to ramp up once more. I was hoping to hear that everything had been solved in term for cast and crews to return to work come the beginning of the New Year.

Sadly, my wish did not come true. The groups haven't even talked to one another for more than two weeks. It's somewhat disgraceful. How will this get sorted out if they aren't even talking to each other?

Now, to be clear, I'm not putting the blame on any one side. Both groups have valid concerns. Neither group wants to make a bad deal and be stuck with it. Even so, shouldn't they be talking about their differences?

I'm beginning to feel like a teenager caught between two divorcing parents – each side keeps on telling me how the other is wrong. They refuse to talk to each other, but dad insists that if mom would only take out the garbage once in a while everything would be hunky-dory. Mom, on the other hand, wants dad to man up and do the dishes once a week.

Both parents, however, are only too happy to tell me that it's because of the other one that I'm not going to get my Christmas wish, that if the other one really cared about me they'd buy it for me.

The worst thing about it is that not only has this Christmas been ruined, we're rapidly ruining next Christmas too because no one is making deals for next fall's pilots.

Oh sure, some work is taking place. For instance, the AMPTP web page has this clever little ticker counting dollars lost due to the strike and a cute ad explaining how the average working writer makes more than a surgeon. The fact that corporations like GE, News Corp, Viacom, Disney, and Time Warner (the companies who produce the vast majority of television shows and movies in this country), and their executives do rather well seems to be missing from the ad. The WGA website, on the other hand, is quick to claim that 46% of writers didn't work last year (hence AMPTP using the "working writer" claim), and that the average writer's salary over a five-year period of employment and unemployment is $62,000.

There are, hypothetically, a number of ways that number can be made smaller than the reality of the situation, but I'd rather not get into whether or not mom or dad can afford to bring home a better quality of bacon. I want to hear the sizzle in the pan.

Unquestionably, obviously, without a doubt, complicated issues abound in the contract negotiations and they should not be minimized. The two sides should talk to each other though. And, failing actually talking to each other, they should at least sit down in the same room at stare at each other silently.

Stop. You were about to tell me that this side or that side refuses to sit with the other. Frankly, I don't care. I believe that if one side really wanted to talk to the other it would.

The WGA reached an agreement with Worldwide Pants (Letterman's production company) and both the Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson are going to go back on the air with their full writing staffs. See, talking can make a difference.

Pick up a phone, send an e-mail, grab a bullhorn, and shout from the rooftops. Just talk to each other.

Think of the children.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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