Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is the WGA Strike Really Going to Work?

I haven’t made mention of the WGA strike on this blog until now, mostly because it has yet to have any effect on me. Movies are still coming out because the studios have been stockpiling scripts, TV shows still have a small back-catalogue of scripts, and Conan O’Brien remains his funny and absurd self even without a writing staff. Beyond that, I have trouble caring.

See, my own opinions on the strike are mixed. While I readily acknowledge that what the writers are asking for is entirely reasonable, I also sort of resent that the people responsible for bringing so much crap into the world want to be paid even more for it. Let’s face it, 99 percent of television is absolute garbage, and we mostly have the WGA to thank for it. And while I’d like to see all this over with as soon as possible, there’s also a part of me that would sadistically like to see it taken as far as it will go. Who knows what would happen? Maybe the independent digital video revolution that people have been talking about for years would finally happen.

I also wonder, as Bill Maher did on his first writer-less episode of Real Time last week, whether this was “the right strike at the right time.” The Hollywood studios are as cutthroat and bottom-line oriented as they come, and the general lack of quality that accompanies such a strike will be of little concern to them. They just give us American Gladiators.

Not only that, but they do so unchecked by the satirical watchdog shows like Jon Stewart's, Stephen Colbert's, and Maher’s. As Timothy Noah, a former producer of The West Wing, made mention of on Slate the other day:

“What no one's factored in here is that [the networks' resorting] to cheap reality and game programming actually advantages their bottom line—they get the same paltry rating at a fraction of the cost. And as a bonus, forced into this, courtesy of the writers, they even get to do so without having to withstand critical opprobrium. … [This is] why the Guild leadership utterly miscalculated the effectiveness of this job action.”

Exactly. Why would the major studios ever make a fair deal with the WGA when they don’t have to, when American audiences will still devour whatever filler is offered to them in the interim?

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