Apparently the Writers Guild is on strike…

So… it would seem that the folks who write most of our prime-time television programming are on strike, and from the rhetoric being spewed by both camps, this could shape up into a protracted battle.

I don’t watch prime-time programming. It occurs to me that I’m a horrible judge for how “important” this strike really is, because I’m not feeling it at all (other than reading the headlines with wry amusement.)

So… I’ve got to ask:

67 thoughts on “Apparently the Writers Guild is on strike…”

  1. I’d go even farther and say “shows I’ve never even heard of are in reruns.” if this weren’t reported on NPR, there’d be no way I’d ever have known about it, unless it somehow affected the History Channel, Science Channel, BBC America, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or bittorrent documentary sites.

  2. Doesn’t just affect TV. It will take longer, but if it goes long enough, it will affect movies. And as the SAG contract ends in May of next year, if I remember correctly, this could affect that and then movies will be affected to.

    I support the strike, as my wife is a writer (you met her at A-Kon this year), although not a member of the guild yet. She is working on some movie scripts with another writer. These cannot be sold during the strike either.

  3. Well, my first thought was “Oh good, we may get to catch up with those shows in the DVR queue fairly soon.” For the most part, I don’t see this affecting us much at all. There’s only two “current” shows that we watch, the other 2 or 3 being BBC imports (which are really last seasons even though they’re new to us.)

  4. People will feel it more about January when they run out of new shows to put on. I’ll be sad if we get less episodes of Heroes, but if the writer’s get a more reasonable deal because of the strike I’ll get over it.

  5. I’ve got over a dozen web comics and several blogs on my list. I also watch anime, which is either torrented fansubs or Netflix, and this does nothing for that.

    I do agree with the argument on the website–That’s the impression I’ve gotten, and it’s a legitimate argument. I support this strike. Seems not all of our unions are decrepit.

  6. none of the answers in the poll really reflect how I feel about this… people should be less concerned about the effects of the strike (my favorite show is/is not going to go in to reruns) and more about the reasons for the strike. Writers really do get shafted on DvD royalties, and this seems to be an issue the studios are refusing to budge on…

    1. I feel similarly. Yes, two of my favored shows are already in reruns, and this is likely to affect other shows that I like very much, but I am completely in favor of this strike because I support the writers and feel that they are in the right here. This will eventually hurt my entertainment choices, but I don’t care. If I wasn’t over 2000 from both picketing sites, I’d probably go pass out cookies.

      1. How appropriate you have a House icon there.

        That’s probably the only show that I watch that might be affected by this. The other shows I watch have already finished their seasons, like Psych and Eureka.

        The rest are Anime shows and such, or like Venture bros and are written months and months ahead of time before it ends up on the air. I doubt the writers for Venture Bros would be part of the strike, since they pretty much control the show from start to end.

        As for the strike? I’m opposed to them by principle, but I haven’t looked deeply into this one. They probably have a point about getting part of the dvd sales. I just don’t understand why this is an industry wide thing. What ever happened to a free market in this case? Why aren’t we seeing separate negotiations for NBC Universal, Sony, ABC, CBS, etc. It’d make sense for say, Sony to bump up the rates and give DVD rights to writers to attract better talent!

        1. It probably is seperate, much like the recent round of UAW negotiations. It’s just all close enough together that it blurs the line enough to make it one solid thing. The first company to offer an acceptable deal will come out ahead though. When the next season comes around, the shows that have new episodes will hit the top faster, and those networks will be on top.

  7. I hope that the biggest thing this strike does is give a quick boost to alternate means of production and distribution. The writer’s strike is happening at just the right time to give a boost in viability to user created content. There is a lot of really good stuff on places like YouTube, and without new mass media to compete with, some of those creators might have a better chance of making a go at turning it into a living. (I’m not saying that this is a necessary event for the rise of user created content. I mean I read your comic after all, but I think it will be a great boon to people who create things that at least marginally compete with television programming.) I for one welcome more people paying for things like Red vs. Blue

    1. That’s actually what this strike is about, in essence. To heavily blur the details, this strike is about the fact that writers want to get paid for their work being created for, or distributed through “new media” – essentially the internet.

      1. Yeah. The strike happening right now might be timed just right to give a big boost to alternate means of production and distribution of entertainment. Sort of fulfilling Cory Doctrow’s vision of the future of content.

  8. I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

    I’m afraid that I think that organizing Webcartoonists would be akin to herding cats.

    But, if it could be accomplished, what would we demand?

    1. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

      Another question is, other than a handful of dedicated professionals like Howard, you (you keep to your schedule reliably, even if it is only once a week,) and Mark Stanley, would anybody notice if Web cartoonists went on strike? It seems like the whole of Keenspot periodically goes on strike for days at a time. 😉

      And since Web Cartooning is an individually run business for the most part, who would they be striking against? The readers? I think BLC proved that it’s more effective to just split off of a large entity that isn’t listening to your demands rather than try to protest them from within.

      1. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

        That’s odd, I read about 50 webcomics right now, and having 4 of them not update the day they say they will is unusual.

        1. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

          You’ve obviously picked better webtoonists than I have. 😉

          Or your selection process probably took that into account. It did on mine too, as the ones that update reliably are closer to the top of my list.

          I still run into EGS blowing updates constantly. FoxWeb seems to hiatus frequently, but they’re understandable. Reallife still occasionally blows a deadline. Tsunami channel is horrible about it. Suburban Jungle falls down a fair bit.

          The rest of them have been weeded out of my list pretty much. Dropped into the “I’m not really paying attention to this” pile. There was a point when roughly 75% of the comics on my list blew their updates on a regular basis, either by them getting more professional or by me kicking them off my list, that seems to have gone to about 20%.

          1. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            Though to be fair to Fred, his art is pretty involved, and for the last several months has been dealing with a pregnant wife who has an auto-immune disorder…

            So him at least I cut some slack, and he’s rarely more than a week without an update.

            I loved Sinfest, but dropped it long ago when it went like a month without updating.

          2. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            Problem is two fold. First, he hasn’t been any worse about it in recent months than usual (I would give him a lot of slack on that side, but this is about Megatokyo as a whole, not Megatokyo right now.) Second, I’m of the Eric Burns school of thought here. If you have decided to make your web comic your job, I’ll hold you to higher standards of reliability than if you are doing it as a hobby. It comes down to expecting professional behavior from professionals.

          3. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            I was of the understanding that Fred had a fultime job in addition to MT.

            He’s also got a few personality quirks that seem to make it nearly impossible for him to just “let it go”, meaning if he’s unhappy with a drawing, he will nearly kill himself getting it right.

            Using the style he has, that has got to be rough.

            Not everyone is as good as our Howard, you know… 🙂

          4. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            That would be an example of me selecting a comic out because it’s a little unreliable. It’s still on my list, but I just never click it anymore. 🙁

          5. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            I use firefox’s tabbed bookmarks thing, so I end up checking most conics daily even if they are scheduled once a week or less.

          6. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            I actually have mine on a webpage. , I start at the top and click down the list. I usually only read the first 3 daily (or as fast as they update.) The next batch is a “when I get time” which is usually weekly. Then there’s the “if I get the motivation, i’ll read a few months of this comic” about once a year group.

          7. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

            I use firefox as well and I have three groups of bookmarks. One with about a dozen comics that update daily or five days a week. One with about half a dozen that have a M-W-F update schedule. And a third group that updates about once a week. This way I can open my daily comics in tabs every morning. My non-dailies in tabs on monday, wednesday and friday evenings and check my weeklies on the day they are scheduled to update.

            Out of about 20 comics that I’m reading regularly there are 4-5 that don’t hold to their schedule. Although there are also another 5-10 that I read occaisonally, but don’t have bookmarked becasue they don’t maintain an update schedule as well.

      2. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

        Actually, Mark Stanley is on his Honeymoon today. Freefall may be a little delayed on Friday. I think he’s got a pretty darn good excuse. 🙂

        Personally, I regret that I only update once a week. I would love to be able to do more, but I prefer to make certain that what I take on is sustainable. I’d rather have folks wanting more updates than checking the site and being disappointed.

        Maybe when Kathy and I aren’t 500 miles apart, real life will let up a bit. But for now, this is sustainable.

        Good grief! In 3 months, I’ll have been doing this for 10 years!

        1. Re: I’m not aware of any TV show currently in production worth watching

          Yeah. It’s nice to see comics from that era still updating.

          Usually when Mark goes on vacation like that, he posts his comics in advance. If he misses that for this occasion this time, I can forgive him. 😉 Especially since he won’t take any donations at all for his work and isn’t using it as his sole business. I wish I had that kind of motivation to keep a project going 10 years, 3 days a week reliably, without taking a dime for it.

          I usually get tired of a project within a couple years, then pick it back up later. That’s why I don’t charge for any of my side projects either.

  9. Once again, the big entertainment industry is screwing the people who actually create the product that they make their living off. Greed will out.

    Even those residuals checks aren’t much to write home about. I seem to remember J. Michael Straczynski once discussing when Murder, She Wrote went into syndication. The show ran for 12 seasons, won 6 Golden Globes and 24 other awards, and was nominated for 54 other awards. JMS wrote seven episodes for the show.

    When it hit syndication, his first residuals check (almost invariably the largest) wouldn’t have paid for dinner for one at a decent restaurant.

    1. Even better – JMS didn’t get a dime from the DVD sales of B5, even though the sales were so good that he was able to convince the company to let him do more work in that ‘verse. And he wrote 95% of all the episodes in the series.

      1. Jerry Doyle, the guy who played Garibaldi, also has said the same thing about the DVD sales from B5. It’s not just the writers that are getting shafted by the fact that they don’t control the IP or the Distribution channels.

        1. Hollywood uses methods of accounting that make Enron look like a model of accounting honesty. It’s long past time that a bunch of executives do the perp walk in handcuffs past a bunch of news cameras. Decades past time.

          According to them, when time comes to divvy profits with everyone who has a percentage of the profits, no show has ever made a profit. Ever. Not a dime. All shows in the history of Hollywood have lost money.

          1. Yep. I wasn’t aware it was that bad though. I recall Freakazoid… “Always ask for a piece of the gross, not the net. The net is fantasy.”

  10. Luckily, the show I’m into (Lost) is already about 8 episodes in and it starts in February. So, it’s one of the only shows that actually will have ANY new episodes to run in its upcoming season. However, we’ll see what happens after the first eight episodes have run… I’m hoping for a quick solution.

  11. I’m anti-union from three generations of anti-union people. I should say more properly anti-permanent-union; there are definitely times when a strike is necessary, but it seems to me unions today exist primarily to drive up prices, let union members do less work, and to prevent non-union members from getting jobs. (And that’s not even going into the corruption issues involved with being REQUIRED to join a union and pay a quarter of your paycheck to the union’s leadership…)

    I personally think this strike is -not- necessary. If a contract could have been reached that guaranteed future rights to royalties once we see just how much total revenues from downloads and streaming are, that would have been a good compromise. Right now I’m on the fat cats’ side, at least partly- there’s just no telling how much, if anything, people will be willing to pay for Internet-based television.

    Unfortunately, current law gives unions the right to coerce the employers into caving, and denies the employers the right to go out and get somebody else…

    1. Well, being anti-union for an arguably good reason shouldn’t necessarily lead you to being pro-studio in this conflagration.

      You essentially have the combination of two dysfunctional barriers to the marketplace going head to head here. One is that the studios, like the record companies, have an iron-fisted grip on the distribution channels partly aided by the government. The other is the Writers guild that is keeping all of the writers from being able to differentiate from or succeed apart from the union also partly aided by the government.

      Just getting rid of the unions won’t solve the problem, and just breaking up the control by the studios won’t solve the problem.

      The writers can’t really go and take their show ideas elsewhere because all the studios are in on it together in a way. The studios can’t promote and pay the talent of the writers that actually do the work well without also getting all of the deadwood slackers that are being carried along by the unions at the sameish rates. It leads to a deadlock where the whole industry would benefit from more of an open market, but neither side will allow it to happen because without breaking both sides at once, the side that isn’t broken up wins and gets their way 100%.

      It sucks that the people who write such things like House end up getting held back by people who write things like Two angry beavers and such. Different writers have differing abilities, and deserve differing pay based on their abilities. Ability over Seniority!

      1. heh, Two Angry Beavers

        animation writers, by and large, aren’t WGA members.

        in fact, i read a nice rant by the creator of Two Angry Beavers the other day in which he explained that when he and his co-writers attempted to join the WGA, Viacom fired ’em all.

        1. Re: heh, Two Angry Beavers

          Nod, tis why I mentioned it. I’ve seen that show. Writing it isn’t a reason to be proud or expect money long after you stop writing it.

          1. Re: heh, Two Angry Beavers

            In that regard at least, I wish I were you.

            The bleach, it did nothing to remove the stain of that show from my memory…

    2. Here’s another reason to agree with you though.

      I’m a programmer. If I’m hired by a company to write Fizbin 1.0. Some higher-up in the company came up with the idea behind it, so I just have to take that pattern and turn it into a real application. I write it up, and am paid for doing that. Part of the program is some third party module (We’ll say it’s called Actor 3.0) that is required for the program to work properly. The customer has to license this along with our app.

      I wrote the code for this app and my code made it good. Does that mean if I leave the company I should get a portion of every sale of that app because it still uses my code? Not really. I was paid for the work I did on the app, as were the other programmers who added code to it and made later versions. They’re paid for the work that they do, turning IP ideas into Programs. If I leave the company, I get the money they paid me when I was working for them, along with the ability to point at this successful application and say that I was essential to its creation when I’m interviewing for my next job. Should I complain that the company that made Actor 3.0 is making money from every sale? Why should I? My company made a deal with me to pay me for my work, as that was what was required to get my services. My company made a deal with the Actor 3.0 developers to pay them this amount at every sale because that was required to get their services and Actor 3.0 their intellectual property.

      If I stay with the company, I still don’t get paid for work that I did in the past, but I may get some of the money they’re making either by maintaining the code, or working on projects that can now be funded because the company is making money off that project.

      It’s a work for hire, even though it’s a creative endeavor to write code. Just like it’s a work for hire to write a script for the studios. You don’t own the IP that you’re working on, and you’re being paid to turn the basic ideas into a workable script for the show. The actors are being paid for their intellectual property, aka their likeness, appearing in the show. You don’t really own any of the intellectual property in this case though.

      Should the studios pay their employees who write the scripts a portion of the profits from internet and DVD sales? Possibly. It would help them attract better writers likely. But it should be between the writer and his employer and influenced by the free market. If the studio thinks they can get by with slipshod hacks that will undercut the prices of the better writers? More power to them, but they don’t have the right to complain when their sales plummet due to crappy writing. 😉 You get what you pay for in a free market…

      What I cannot abide by or condone though is things like this post that was sent in earlier, , threatening that if the potential slipshod hack or potential opportunistic decent write works for the studios during the strike that they’ll never work again in Hollywood when the strike is over. Gee, it’s like the Mafia has invaded! Wear a toothpick in your hat that says you’ll give us kickbacks or else we won’t pick you when we drive the truck up to get laborers. That is corruption, plain and simple.

    3. I greatly sympathize; I’m reflexively very anti-union, too, and consider the requirement to join a union in order to work to be a complete abomination.

      From what I’ve seen, though, the studios are being unreasonable. Outrageously so.

  12. The only show I watch that is at serious risk is Heroes, which may have to cut its entire season short. This would annoy me. Nonetheless, I have plenty of other things to entertain me should this happen.

    1. I’m a little concerned about that with Battlestar. The last season starts in January and it would be a shame if it fell apart due to lack of writers.

      1. Actually, that’s the beauty of it. If the writing strike interferes with BSG, they can just hold off starting it. If it interferes with a show that’s ALREADY started, they may decide to rush the season’s plot and call it a day.

      2. actually

        it was announced a week or so ago that BSG wouldn’t be returning until April 2008.

        yep, April. 13 months after the last episode of season 3.


  13. I’ll be honest, it gives us the chance to go back and watch some good stuff. And the WGA is in the right, the industry has found new revenue streams which the writers don’t get a piece of. That and the negotiations don’t come around often enough so yeah, they deserve a piece of the industry’s good times aswell.

  14. I think this blog entry sums it up nicely and links to where you can get some details… And just to give a little credence to what she says, Diana’s done some screenwriting for Star Trek:TNG, worked on such films as “Enemy: Mine”, and is in her own right a hell of a good writer.

  15. I voted “I don’t watch enough TV for this to matter”, but it would be more accurate to say “at all”. The TV hasn’t been on at all except for as a display for either the DVD player or the PS2 since seven days after 9-11. (I was watching for new developments during that period. I stopped when I realized I was getting more accurate information – sooner – than the presenters by going through the internet.) Even that week was an anomaly: I gave up television for entertainment purposes back in the summer of ’92 when I came in one afternoon, cycled through all available channels twice, and saw that the best thing on was Mr. Rogers. A rerun of Mr. Rogers.

    You know the part most people have problems believing?

    I don’t miss it.

    1. +1

      I don’t have quite that stellar a record, but every time I switch over to the cable box, I can get into a show for maybe 10-15 minutes before I have to shut it off. That’s about the amount of time before the show is put on hold and replaced by some inane advertisement with overcompressed audio and fake people insisting that I buy something I really don’t need or want. If I wanted my ears damaged and my intelligence insulted, I’d go to an Eminem concert. It’s cheaper in the long run.

      Meanwhile, if a show’s that good, I’ll have heard enough word-of-mouth reviews by the end of the season to justify picking up the DVD. A whole season, watched at my pace, with no advertisements.

      Come to think of it, wasn’t lack-of-commercials that one of the early selling points of cable TV? I seem to recall that being the justification for people actually *paying* for what was otherwise free over the air.

  16. Honestly, it shouldn’t affect me much at all. House season 4 may turn into a stinker, but I’ll probably watch it anyway.

    Worst case is it could go like the 1994 Baseball strike, where I was disgusted enough by both sides that I stopped watching baseball altogether up until this year. I actually took a similarly long break from TV (1998-9ish till about 2005?), only starting again on watching live action tv shows when I found Monk and House 2 years ago.

  17. Like several other people commenting, I gave up watching television years ago. It’s more accurate to say that I gave up watching anything current. This year I have watched Buffy, Angel, and Charmed all the way through. The only ongoing series I follow is the K-F fansubs of One Piece, and that doesn’t really count.

  18. Since your blog is literally the first I heard about it, I had to choose “I don’t watch enough TV for this to matter.” But I always feel pretentious after mentioning how little I watch TV.

  19. Well…

    This actually has turned out to be an amazing season (relatively speaking) for prime time tv, what with the Chuck and Reaper and all. However, it is fairly important to realize that it is just TV. If the writers are on strike, and new episodes are on hold, I think we can all survive just fine. After all, there’s family, reading and that whole “outdoors” thing I’ve heard so much about.

  20. Honestly, most of what I watch is on History channel, Food Network, Discovery or BBC America, so I’m not feeling the pain. Well, I usually watch Jay Leno on Mondays to catch the Headlines segment, so yeah, that’s a bummer. Other than that, no big deal here.


  21. But What About Joss?

    Yeah…personally, the only thing I’m scared of is this somehow serving as breeding grounds for the pestilential blight to cultures high and low that is reality television. (After all…one of the advantages of reality television is you don’t have to hire screenwriters, at all.)

    Or so I say. But I lie. There’s something you didn’t mention up there. There should be an option for “I’m worried that the new show by Joss Whedon which has a signed contract will get canceled due to the strike.” I got in on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly too late to actually watch any of them live–so it makes me sad that the strike came into play just a few days after Joss got a contract for Dollhouse.

    1. Re: But What About Joss?

      He could always write it himself.. Oh, wait. I forgot. He’s probably not a member of the writer’s union.

      The theatre is one of the nastiest ‘union’ areas. SAG is vicious and unprincipled, and I’ve never noticed any of the others to be any better. Remember the Hollywood Blacklist? Then there were a couple of ‘musician’s strikes’ after WW-II – which actually allowed the crooners and do-wop to take off, because they didn’t really require entire bands.

      Frankly, I’d prefer a level playing field – writers and actors treated the same, for the work they do on a show. If the writers don’t get residuals for what the actors are saying, why should the actors get residuals for saying it? Of course, vice versa works as well. Then again, I also think that the industry itself is screwed up, big time.


  22. I’d miss The Daily Show, except my recent upgrade to kubuntu 7.10 took out my ability to watch it. (Gnash is barely up to dealing with some youtube videos, and can’t handle’s “the motherload” flash monstrosity, but the 32-bit flash 9 plugin _will_not_install_ on my 64-bit Kubuntu. Tried three different methods. I know they say it works seamlessly in 7.10. They lie, at least in my case…)

    If I can manage to get flash working on my laptop before the writer’s strike is over, I’ll go back to missing The Daily Show.

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