Friday, December 28, 2007

Re-evaluating my "it's not good"

I was going to respond to Hulett's response, but... figured, what the hell. Lets put it all in a topic.Steve posed the question:

"So ... does this '07 strike have the trajectory of the '88 strike?

1988: WGA goes on strike. Carson returns (writing his own monologues.) WGA settles.

2007: WGA goes on strike. Jay, Conan, and the rest return. Letterman's writers writing, everybody else adlibbing? WGA ... ???"

I have my doubts about that now, as I reconsider things. Part of that reconsideration is the E-mail update I received from the WGA about the matter. I'm sure it will be on DeadlineHollywoodDaily by this time tomorrow, so I have no problem posting to discuss:

"To Our Fellow Members,

We are writing to let you know that have reached a contract with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company that puts his show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson back on the air with Guild writers. This agreement is a positive step forward in our effort to reach an industry-wide contract. While we know that these deals put only a small number of writers back to work, three strategic imperatives have led us to conclude that this deal, and similar potential deals, are beneficial to our overall negotiating efforts.

First, the AMPTP has not yet been a productive avenue for an agreement. As a result, we are seeking deals with individual signatories. The Worldwide Pants deal is the first. We hope it will encourage other companies, especially large employers, to seek and reach agreements with us. Companies who have a WGA deal and Guild writers will have a clear advantage. Companies that do not will increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Indeed, such a disadvantage could cost competing networks tens of millions in refunds to advertisers.

Me: I sort of agree with this. Yes, it will be seen by the vast majority of the American public as a chink in the armor. And unless people are sampling late night shows, and realizing "Oh, shit... Letterman is getting better jokes, better bits and better guests," it will continue to look like a chink in the armor.

But I also trust Letterman to beat this topic to death because not only can he and only he, do it from a moral high ground... What's to stop Judd Apatow, or Joss Whedon, from writing a piece for his show and freelancing under the new WGA contract? Or celebrities helping? Or constant, incessant top ten lists and sketches that point out the writer's side of the debate?

CBS is now in the hellacious position... of giving an hour a day to someone who is going to tear them apart for their corporate CBS position.

Thoughts continue:

"Second, this is a full and binding agreement. Worldwide Pants is agreeing to the full MBA, including the new media proposals we have been unable to make progress on at the big bargaining table. This demonstrates the integrity and affordability of our proposals. There are no shortcuts in this deal. Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7.

This is a big piece of what's swaying me. They cracked someone. They made the deal work. And Letterman, who gets more of his show in success, and was paying the rent on the Ed Sullivan Theater while this was all going down, had the most to personally lose.

And yet, they did the deal with the WGA.

Finally, while our preference is an industry-wide deal, we will take partial steps if those will lead to the complete deal. We regret that all of us cannot yet return to work. We especially regret that other late night writers cannot return to work along with the Worldwide Pants employees. But the conclusion of your leadership is that getting some writers back to work under the Guild’s proposed terms speeds up the return to work of all writers.

And there's something to that, provided the American Public that watches Dave, Jay, Stewart, Colbert, et al see the difference in quality and react to it. Think about this bullshit with the NFL on the Patriots game. Greed would have said 60 percent of the country would have missed it. Pressure changed that.

It also lets other shows that might not be "#1" realize... if they play ball, if they do what's right, if they try to find a way to make the WGA deal work... maybe they get to start working on their shows again.

You gonna tell me the guys at CSI don't have the ability to push for change? Isn't that how Family Guy/Futurama/Simpsons and the PJ's (yikes) finally went WGA?

Side-by-side with this agreement, and any others that we reach, are our ongoing strike strategies. In the case of late-night shows, our strike pressure will be intense and essential in directing political and SAG-member guests to Letterman and Ferguson rather than to struck talk shows. At this time, picket lines at venues such as NBC (both Burbank and Rockefeller Center), The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Golden Globes are essential. Outreach to advertisers and investors will intensify in the days ahead and writers will continue to develop new media content itself to advance our position.

Pressure. Clout. It's what Steve Hulett says the WGA needs to win their fight. Interesting point: Letterman is NOT number one. Leno is. Where's the clout in getting Letterman to agree to the deal?

The clout is... he can BECOME #1. The clout is, the other shows will look weak in comparison. Maybe this is a chink in the armor. But I think - as I spend the day thinking about it - that it's not. I think, maybe, it will make anyone else that doesn't try to do the same thing look like colossal dicks.

Perhaps corporations don't care about that.

But showrunners? Executive Producers? Stars of popular anythings? They do. They want to be back to work. Back to creating. Back to being able to prattle on about how cool they are in "Desperate Housewives."

And I think that's about to become very apparently with Letterman's return.

Should be interesting to watch.


steve too said...

You maybe right, but you (and it seems everyone else) are making some huge assumptions about when all these shows return.
1. Lettermans's show will be superior in everyway to the Jay's show (no one gives a crap about Fergusen's show) and that's the only competition for Dave.
2. Dave will batter the CBS and discuss the strike even though most of America doesn't really care about it like we do in CA and NY). If anyone does do that it would be Dave, but there's no guarantee he'll let the writers do that.
3. All the shows that didn't sign a special deal will suck noticably to the public. Apparently the WGA think that the hosts are going to sit in front of the cameras drooling without them, but I have to assume that they've got more than that in mind. Maybe not?
4. That Dave agreeing to everythinmg somehow signifies anything. Keep in mind he has no DVDs and because of the nature of his show it might be dificult to determine reuse fees on the web. They could easily break his show into smaller segments and negate the second airing theory in favor of promotionals.
5. That somehow the stars of a show like CSI are anything more than well paid employees and cannot be replaced at the drop of a hat. Ask a couple of the stars of CSI if they can't be written out easily enough. Keep in mind these are ensemble shows. It's unlikely a big star of a show like 'My Name is Earl' would push the netwoirk since they are usually given producer credit of their shows.
6. That Dave negotiated without the blessing of CBS. Just because Dave gets an agreement doesn't mean CBS has to put his show back on. I somehow doubt that CBS wasn't involved in talking to WWP in some capacity. If so then they must feel this won't screw up their position. Of course, they might be stupid and not recognize what the WGA think they recognize about this deal.

A lot of "ifs" at this point, but more should be clear next week.

write wing commander said...

If I were a studio exec/writer/producer/actor/BTL worker and I received a force majeure letter from a studio shitcanning me out of a job I'd sue their ass in a sec. Why? Because if WWP can make a deal then so can AMPTP. The studios would be declaring force majeure under false pretenses. Let the lawsuits commence.

Steve Hulett said...

Like I keep saying. It's leverage. Does the WGA have the wherewithal to get a good contract? I'm not close enough to what's going on to really know.

If I knew with certainty how much punishment the congloms were willing to take, and what the cracking point was for the membership of the WGA, then I could make a reasonable prediction about who would finally get what they want.

But since I don't, all I can do is speculate based on more limited knowledge.

Steve Hulett said...

Because if WWP can make a deal then so can AMPTP. The studios would be declaring force majeure under false pretenses. Let the lawsuits commence

I doubt that lawsuits would get very far. Of course, it depends on how the PSAs were written.

Kevin said...

Hey, what's with the 'yikes' after the reference to the PJ's? That show rocked. Seriously, you can mention Family Guy without a smirk, but diss the PJ's? Thurgood Stubbs deserves better than that.