A COLD FRONT MOVING IN FROM THE NORTH: The Hollywood writers’ strike may be over by the end of the week, according to a story published in Saturday’s New York Times, and it might have ended sooner if the parties involved hadn’t adjourned informal talks to watch the Super Bowl, at least according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter late last week.
The negotiations are a sort of back channel affair, according to the Times, done without formally resuming talks between the writers and the networks and studios, which have apparently “eliminated the major roadblocks to a new contract,” prime among which were the writers’ suddenly renewed insistence on getting reality TV and animated shows under their umbrella. This was a deal breaker when it was raised during the last formal negotiations, so one presumes that reality TV will remain the red-headed stepchild of the primetime world.
A settlement will likely save this year’s Oscars, which have been preparing to proceed without a waiver from the Writers Guild Of America, in what the show’s producers had hinted would be a shorter TV special format, with film clips historical segments on Oscar history. I’m probably not alone in wishing that the WGA had held on for at least a couple more weeks, if only to scuttle the Oscars – “the worst three hours and 27 minutes on television” according to Newsweek’s Marc Peyser in a piece published last week. One assumes that the “dead reel” – the bathetic but moving tribute to industry figures that had died in the past year – would have remained in the shortened show; it’s my favorite part of the endurance test that is the Oscars, and probably the only reason I watch anymore.
If it’s not too early to start the post-mortems on the strike, one of the side effects of over three months of work stoppage on U.S. television and movies, and the virtual scuttling of the 2007-2008 TV season, was a burgeoning demand for Canadian shows to fill the gaps, which only happened in what seems to have been the 11th hour.
CTV’s partnership with CBS to produce Flashpoint for both networks was last week’s big news, and on Friday the Hollywood Reporter ran a piece detailing a burst of cross-border shopping by U.S. networks. The producers of two new CBC shows are apparently in negotiations to export their shows south – CBS and ABC expressing interest in The Border, and ABC Family negotiating with the makers of Sophie.
NBC has also reportedly finalized a deal with CTV to bring The Listener onto their primetime schedule, prompting an unnamed agent to tell the Reporter that “Canada is the next big thing.” Paramedics were called to the offices of at least two Toronto production houses when the Reporter piece went online, to revive several executives whose heads exploded when they read this line.