Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Ramifications of the Writers' Strike

Well, the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) strike is in full effect. The first ubiquitous protest from the group in almost 20 years. I can't say I blame the Writer's Guild for fighting to gain proper compensation for their work. The truth is that the entertainment industry is evolving and the television networks and movie studios are not properly keeping up with the recent change in climate. Reality shows have become a dominant slice of programming pie, requiring dirt cheap production costs and virtually script-free programming. In addition, many TV networks are experimenting with newer forms of media like time-shifted Internet clips and webisodes, excluding writers from earning royalties off these new ventures, along with the highly lucrative DVD business as well. Obviously, both sides clearly recognize that having a dominant position among these new media types is where the money will be in the future. But the group that will be ultimately lose out the most from this strike are the millions of viewers across the world this Fall and next Spring.

Most likely, the shows that be affected the earliest will be the late-night talk shows and weekly news programs (like The Tonight Show and The Colbert Report), since these are usually daily offerings that are highly topical in nature. The scripted comedies and dramas that started in September will likely have enough episodes in the hopper to cover up till X-mas hiatus, but I predict many of these will opt for shortened seasons. No doubt a few may have even been scrambling to hammer out season finales early. And I can't imagine what will happen to shows like 24 and LOST that were slated to begin in January or February of next year. How can you produce a proper serialized show when you've only got half of the episodes finished? And with LOST and Battlestar having a finite set of remaining episodes to go, I hope they don't get compromised in the end.

Even if the strike only lasts a few months, that could carve off nearly half the episodes required to finish most of the seasons this year. After all, producing a high quality program takes months. It's not quite as simple as filming the actors and sending it off to press. Just like a threaded process running in parallel, it quite costly to abort an instruction midway through. Even worse, networks will have to come up with something to fill those empty time slots. Whatever they decide, it's not gonna be pretty folks. I've heard everything from an onslaught of reality and game shows, to lots of reruns, to an influx of foreign programming (think UK imports). Mostly, I'm concerned that the jarring season endings will hurt the ratings of many shows out there, simply due to viewer apathy. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but too much may leave you wanting something new, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a huge reboot across the board of high profile programming in the Fall 2008 lineup.

So enjoy those episodic gems of TV goodness now, while you still can. I, myself, am looking forward to catching up with as many DVD box sets as I can get my hands on. I'm currently working my way through Battlestar Galactica. Next up is Twin Peaks. As for anything beyond that, I'm welcome to take recommendations..

No comments: