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Viewing Single Post From: ALL: Soap Scribes to Strike?
Ally
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The Royal Princess

What a strike would mean for TV

Bye-bye, good ol' CSI, Pushing Daisies is a maybe, and Heroes may die

Oct 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Rob Salem
Television Critic

LOS ANGELES–"We need to know what the pie is before we can figure out how to divvy it up," tacitly suggests Nick Counter.

And he isn't talking about upcoming episodes of the pie-centric new ABC fantasy series, Pushing Daisies. At least, not directly.

As the president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – the networks' bargaining unit in negotiations with the various industry guilds, representing some 350 production companies and studios – he is referring to the contentious multi-platform debate that threatens the immediate future of American entertainment, television and film ... Pushing Daisies included.

If the Writers Guild of America walks out over the issue this week, as 90 per cent of its membership has voted, it is television that will suffer the most immediate and devastating effects.

The movie studios, which tend to work a year in advance anyway, have been stockpiling scripts for months. Aside from some of the more current franchise films and sequels, they are not likely to feel the pinch until 2009 – unless, of course, the actors and directors follow suit when their contracts expire at the end of June. Which, industry insiders fear, they are likely to do.

But the TV studios and networks' needs are far more pressing. Returning shows like Grey's Anatomy, Heroes and the various CSIs and Law & Orders will be okay in the short term, since they tend to be much further along in production than the new shows on the network schedules.

A strike now would not only effectively shut down fledgling hits – for example, Pushing Daisies – but also existing serial dramas like 24 and Lost, in that they really have to finish shooting their entire seasons rather than leave their loyal audiences hanging.

Animated shows like The Simpsons would be spared, since they produce up to a year in advance (the adamantly last-minute South Park being the sole exception).

Most immediately affected will be shows like The Daily Show, though host Jon Stewart and his late-night brethren are certainly capable of winging it (as Johnny Carson and David Letterman did in 1988 during the last strike, after a couple of months of fill-in reruns). Also, under a separate contract, most of these guys would still be allowed to write for themselves, as long as that does not exceed what they were writing pre-strike.

Daytime talk shows like The View would for the most part grind to a halt. Others, like Today and its current event-skewed counterparts, would continue uninterrupted – indeed, they would likely be expanded to fill the open airtime – since news writers belong to a separate union.

Daytime soaps, which traditionally script a month in advance, would have just that long to wrap up current crises before taking an enforced hiatus.

So where does that leave us – aside from homegrown programming getting a most welcome, well-earned and desperately needed shot at the formerly otherwise occupied mass-Canadian audience?

American industry execs, expecting the worst (as they traditionally tend to anyway), have had contingency plans in place for more than a year.

"Well, I'm not going to get into the details of what our schedule will look like, just for competitive reasons," allows Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

"We are committed to providing quality entertainment programming. You are not going to see a test pattern ... although maybe on NBC a test pattern in some cases would be okay.

"But, seriously, we have plans. We've been preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. And if it comes to be that there is a strike, there will be a full schedule of programming on NBC. And all of the other networks are doing the same."

That's not news, but it is reality ... just as the last threatened writers strike of 1999 gave birth to the whole "reality" craze with the twin-pronged launch of Survivor and Who Wants to be A Millionaire?, so too will this strike – threatened or actual – result in a new glut of "unscripted" series.

Ratings juggernaut American Idol already rules the airwaves – and, come November, alternative choices will become increasingly few and far between.

"The next 12 to 15 months are certainly going to be stressful times and challenging times for all of us," acknowledges Bruce Rosenblum, president of the Warner Brothers Television Group.

Indeed. And when it's all over, it may be beyond even the miraculous resurrection powers of Pushing Daisies' pie-man to bring the TV season back to life.


Source: http://www.thestar.com/article/270547
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