Hold on to Your Couch Cushions: The Writers' Strike Is Here
The Writers Guild of America announced this evening that the scribes behind our favorite TV shows (and movies) will indeed go on strike, after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers refused to budge on the crucial issue of broadband and Internet profits.
Funny enough, I heard this news tonight while sitting at a table at a Children's Defense Fund dinner with Lost leader Damon Lindelof and Heroes producer Tim Kring, whose BlackBerrys (along with other writers, producers and directors in the room) simultaneously buzzed at about 7:30 with the news that "It's on." (For the latest deets, check our news story.)
My heart is heavy—not so much for the lack of television we fans will have to endure (I'll get to that in a moment) but for the ripple effect this strike will have on the Hollywood industry and community, trickling down from front-end staffers like executive producers, writers and actors to behind-the-scenes folks like caterers, dry cleaners and janitors...and on to the spouses and children of all of the above.
I'm not trying to get sappy here, but it needs to be said: When Hollywood shuts down, it shuts down for everyone—not just the writers.
I'm told that sometime in the next 24 hours, WGA members will be given instructions for when the strike will begin and handed red WGA T-shirts that they should wear as they picket.
But as of this moment, TV as we know it is no longer moving forward. It's an distinctly disturbing feeling.
Many of you have been writing in to ask: What does this mean for our favorite shows? I have to admit, I'm still wrapping my own head around it, but here's what I can tell you:
The effects of the strike will be felt first on nighttime shows such as Leno, Letterman, Kimmel and (this one's hard to stomach) The Daily Show, which obviously require scripts on a daily basis.
Then the soap-opera scripts will run dry.
And then, somewhere around January or February, most of the series currently on the air will run out their completed episodes and be replaced by reality and news programming, reruns or that burning log in the fireplace normally reserved for Christmas Day (essentially, whatever the nets can muster).
So, when we're talking about Grey's, Ugly Betty, The Office, etc., you can expect to get weepy in January. But of course, it also depends on how long the strike lasts. It could be as short as five days or as long as the last strike in 1988—22 weeks—or even longer.
From all appearances, Lost may have the best advantage of all series, given that it has been stockpiling new scripts since June and not a single episode has aired. At this point, 14 of 16 episodes have been written. And if the strike does last long enough to seriously impact other series, Lost could very well be the only quality scripted drama on television in February (along with perhaps 24, though it's far more behind in scripts due to an overhaul of location and storyline).
Heroes also might not have it quite so bad. This year, producers decided to break up the season into "volumes," and the first volume is set to come to an end the first week of December. It's likely that the wait for the second volume would simply extend until after the strike is over, so at least fans would have a natural break in the storyline.
And then you have the more depressing scenarios. For starters, there are producers like Joss Whedon, whose new series Dollhouse has been catapulting forward at lightning speed, only to be derailed by the strike. "I will be busy picketing," Whedon told me yesterday. "I support the guild, and I think what we are doing is unfortunate but necessary. That means I don't get to have my fun, but that isn't the point."
It's also a grim story for new series, as evidenced by Chuck and Gossip Girl boss Josh Schwartz, whose two new shows have been gaining both momentum and buzz and now must come to a screeching halt. Sources have told me Gossip Girl lost a cover of Entertainment Weekly because of the strike (it might not be on the air when the cover would hit stands) and that Chuck will not receive news of a full-season pickup until after the strike is over. "I support the guild," Schwartz told me. "But it's unfortunate for everyone, all the way around."
Bottom line: We'll have our shows all this month for November sweeps, then we'll notice a dip in new programming (as usual) in December. Then come January or February, we'll feel it big.
So...anyone have any ideas on what we TV fans can do to survive it? DVDs? Reruns? Books? Videogames? Knitting circles? Anger management?
I'm honestly not sure. But I do know that this strike is necessary, and I personally support the writers. Here's hoping this strike ends in a swift and just manner—and before Fox brings back The Littlest Groom.
What are your thoughts on the writers' strike? Sound off in our Comments section below.