STRUCK DUMB: PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE? With talks set to start up again tomorrow, things don’t look good for a resolution of the Hollywood writers’ strike, as talks ended on Thursday with representatives of the Writer’s Guild of America rejecting the “New Economic Partnership” offered by the representatives of the studios and networks, apparently the best compromise the producers were willing to offer the writers, who want an improved cut of downloads, DVD sales and other new revenue streams that have become notable since the last strike almost twenty years ago.
The producers talked about a “partnership” and a new sense of “give and take” with the writers, according to a New York Times article, while the writers called the producers’ offer of US $250 for a year’s streaming of a show on the internet “a massive rollback.” (By comparison, writers currently get $20,000 for network re-runs of a show – in case you were wondering where all those big houses in Brentford, Bel Air and the Hollywood Hills come from.)
It’s actually a pretty paltry sum, especially if you don’t buy the producers’ pleading that the most they make off the internet in an average week is twenty-three bucks in nickels, an ad in some kid’s high school yearbook, a promise from their brother-in-law that he’ll pay them when he gets his tax refund, and a Gap rain check. Toronto reader Alex Russel wrote in to describe his reaction to the strike, which hit a new plateau last week when staff on Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno’s show – around 200 people – were laid off.
“A few days ago, you asked for the viewer's take on the ongoing writers strike,” Alex wrote. “Well, here's mine:Don't care, won't care. My TV life exists on a higher spectrum. The shows I'm watching everyday were written years ago.I don't have the luxury of setting aside a specific hour of each week, varied according to the arbitrary whims of a faceless scheduling committee. So, I wait for syndication and DVD.”
Alex’s reaction is one I hear more and more, and one which is borne out by my own experience – time is of the essence, no one watches TV like it’s 1975 anymore, and technology is the boat sailing away from the dock, taking most viewers along with it, while the industry – both producers and writers – seem intent on arguing where the map ends and the oceans drop off into space.
“I let the primetime meat grinder cut the fat, and see what comes out the other end. It has backfired; I didn't even know about Firefly until it was too late, but I'm just not patient enough. Even a PVR won't cut it - I don't want to wait another week for the next episode, even if I can watch it whenever I want.What do I think about the writers’ strike, and how it will change TV? Like I said, couldn't care less. But whatever happens, it’s about time somebody poked TV in the butt with a sharp stick and got it to realize that times have changed.”