TV writers expected to continue strike into early 2008

Caroline Babula ('09)/ Eastside Staff

letterman.jpgOver 12,000 members of the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on November 5, causing many TV shows to go into immediate reruns and others to consider early season finales.

The Writer’s Guild is a general term given to two labor unions: the Writer’s Guild East, which represents film and TV writers around New York City, and the Writer’s Guild West, which represents those located in Hollywood and southern California. The AMPTP is an association which represents American film and TV producers.

Members decided to strike when they determined that they deserved higher residuals for content shown on the Internet, mobile phones and DVDs.

The last time the WGA went on strike in 1988, the strike lasted five months and delayed the commencement of the fall TV season. In total, the strike cost the American entertainment industry about 500 million dollars. The current strike is expected to last at least until the beginning of 2008, if not longer. Most of the late-night talk shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman and The Colbert Report, have gone into immediate reruns. Bill Scheft, a Late Show writer, has said he would not mind if Letterman were to continue his show without writers.

“We are thrilled that he is standing with us,” says Scheft. “David Letterman on the air without writers, pissed off and talking about the strike, would be the greatest ally the writers could have.”

Ellen DeGeneres is one talk show host who has decided to stay on the air, albeit with much criticism for her choice. Some WGA leaders feel DeGeneres should emulate other talk show hosts like Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and refuse to work. DeGeneres’ representative dismisses the comparisons because Leno’s and O’Brien’s talk shows are not syndicated, as The Ellen DeGeneres Show is. DeGeneres is actually part of the WGA and its sister union for TV performers, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Although DeGeneres supports the writers, if she did not choose to continue episodes, the various stations that carry her show could have altered its time slot or charge that the program was breaking its contract with AFTRA.

Shows like Heroes, Men In Trees and Pushing Daisies are among the shows planning early season finales. Pushing Daisies, the new ABC hit, did not have a full season ordered before the strike commenced. Now, there are only nine episodes written.

“As we were scrambling to rewrite [the ninth episode],” said creator Bryan Fuller, “we added several elements that will put many balls into the air and hopefully encourage the audience to come back and see how they land [in the next season].”

Many other shows will only have about half of their episodes produced. Shows like House, Brothers & Sisters and The Office are only producing twelve episodes. At least half of these episodes have already aired. Fox’s mega-hit 24’s return, originally scheduled for January, has now been postponed indefinitely. The highly popular ABC series Lost only has eight episodes of a typically sixteen-episode season written.

At this time, it is unclear when and how the strike will end.