The strike is upon us. The sky is falling. The dust covers are removed from the furniture in the fifth vacation homes.
And TeeVee is an unmitigated disaster of suckage.
With the exception of the strike, it's business as usual.
Finally, writers are the talk of the town, but do we really care if the connotation is negative? Apparently not. The producers took residuals off the table (as any thinking person knew they would), and painted the WGA as militant fucks (as any thinking person knew they would). Strike groups are apparently being organized, although I'm not in one yet so maybe they don't want me out there with my sign. That would figure. The producers and the WGA are in talks again. And they have "notable" writers like Carlton Cuse and Stephen Gaghan calling all of us. That pisses me off. Why do they have to get high-profile writers to do this? If member Bob Smith called me, I'd listen. But Stephen Gaghan? Fuck you. It just reinforces the elitism.
Josh takes me to task on all of this:
Jesus. You're turning me into a class defender... I think you're being a bit harsh on some of the more well-to-do members. I see just as much blinkered self-interest among the middle class of the Guild, as well, ya know.
Noted. But the self-interest among the rest of us has more to do with actually paying the rent and buying groceries than it does with things that, I gotta say, seem more abstract when you can't pay the bills.
The reason I'm sensitive to the issue is this - the bad media coverage has already begun, and it's gonna get worse. We're NOT gonna get a fair shake in the press, because they know which side their bread is buttered on. They'll portray the entire Guild membership as a bunch of super rich, greedy Hollywood cocksuckers. They do it every time. And while there are obviously plenty of rich, smug, selfish assholes in the Guild, there are also important issues at stake.
And the reason they can do that is because it's the super rich, greedy cocksuckers who are running the show. If the leadership wasn't all those guys, if they weren't playing into that stereotype, it would be harder for the press to do that. I mean, wouldn't it be better if we David-and-Goliath'ed it? Let's have the working-class writer (for lack of a way better term) represent us against the corporate monoliths. But no, it's rich vs. rich and whenever titans go at each other, those self-interests are gonna be a little different.
I definitely think there are serious issues at stake but the dirty little secret is that essentially, we've already been on strike all year, especially in TeeVee. If you aren't on staff or don't have a deal, chances are very good that you didn't sell a pilot this year. And if you were lucky enough to sell one after the SAV e-mail went out, the networks won't commence you until the strike is over. So the lock-out began, actually, months ago. The WGA's militant stance is directly responsible for fucking people out of work. This doesn't affect Gaghan and Cuse and all those guys, so they don't even know it happened. But if you had Bob Smith on the negotiating committee, he would understand. What the WGA needed to do was to be able to hold a press conference where they went, "We've bent over backwards for the producers, but they are killing us." We needed to be able to generate some sympathy. And they didn't do that.
This may not sound like much to you, but if this strike goes on too long, I'll have to give up caviar and hookers. So, you know... you're not the only one suffering.
I admire your bravery. I would give up the hookers first.
I will say, though, it's refreshing to read a blog on the strike in which there's no question of where the blogger's loyalties are, or who's actually footing the bill. There's some dastardly shit going on at that OTHER place.
It sounds freakin' INSANE over there! I mean, seriously. Vote, you asshat. WTF's wrong with you????
I live in hope, though. The eternal cynical optimist, if that's possible. If the strike happens, let's see who shows up for the picket lines. THEN let's excoriate the fuckers who don't.
That's something I can agree with.
>I can't write a Mad Men spec. That would be insane (although maybe a little insanity is good).
Indeed. I seem to recall a couple of insanely great writers I know writing a Buffy spec after the show had been on the air maybe three weeks. Everyone called them insane, too. But it worked out okay....
Hmm.... excellent point...
I'll tell you this, the more I watch this season's TV the more I'm disappointed. It all seems to be written by the same people and looking at the list of names that scrolls across my screen every week I'm not surprised to find that some people are producing or creating 3 or 4 shows which are currently on. There needs to be a lot more variety!
When you've been hired in TeeVee, it's accepted that you've reached a certain level. There are a sad number of people who don't know how to read and judge a script, so they have to rely on the resume and the in-crowd-ness of it all. This makes it easier for them. They don't HAVE to know if a script is good, or if a writer can do the job. The writer's already been vetted by someone else, right? Now think about the number of hit shows on the air. Not that many. But writers who are fortunate enough to get on one of those shows are magically elevated to another level. It's as if they were solely responsible for the success of that show.
The amount of bullshit a writer has to go through just to get the meeting is infuriating enough, but what's happening now is that they basically want you to beg for the job. Moreover, they want you to somehow be able to READ THEIR MINDS. You have to be "on the same page" as the showrunner in order to get the job. But let's back up. First, you have to be on the approved list at the studio and at the network (and at the POD, if there is one). If you ARE on these lists, your material will be sent to the showrunner. The showrunner is inundated with scripts. Literally buried under piles of specs. He can't possibly read all of them. So he'll read scripts sent by his own agency first.
After that comes the real hell. The showrunner has to hire his number two and number three first. These people command A BUTTLOAD OF MONEY. So after that, the showrunner looks at his dwindling budget and goes, "Well, shit. I can afford a story editor and a staff writer." If the showrunner can afford someone at midlevel, he's either going to hire someone he's worked with before (you can't blame anyone for that), or he's going to go resume shopping.
Remember, the showrunner was buried under mounds of specs and resumes. He can cherry-pick from those resumes. And if you're a mid or lower level writer, having people make calls for you about how great you are doesn't make a damned bit of difference. Writing the best spec ever isn't going to matter. Having an amazing meeting means nothing. You are at the mercy of that resume, unless you meet a sane person who really doesn't give a shit. I don't think there are any of them left. Showrunners are hiring the same writers because those writers are going from known show to known show. The other writers, the ones with the crap resumes, aren't getting any opportunities because there are so many of the top resume writers that shows which would have given people a chance get the good resume cast-offs.
This is why you're seeing the same names over and over. Just breaking into TeeVee doesn't mean you're in the club. You're in the vestibule.
Then when you get into making pilots and getting shows on the air, the world gets even smaller. Just because everybody loved the pilot you wrote, if it didn't get shot or on the air, that doesn't give you any cache. On the one hand, that makes a certain amount of sense. It's like being in Vegas, and the guy throwing the dice at the craps table has a remarkable string of luck. Naturally, you'll stay there and bet on the guy, even though he could be Charles Manson, right? Same thing in TeeVee. You have to get lucky about six times in a row to get a show on the air. Why take a chance on someone who hasn't gotten that lucky? You wouldn't do that in Vegas, and Hollywood is as much a gambling town as Vegas is.
The problem comes when you want to equate talent with luck. Talent gets you in that initial door, but you need luck to carry you. I wish I could say luck and hard work, but there are successful lazy people so that doesn't always hold.
But because luck is such a major component, what can you do if you don't have it? Luck is what it is. The point is, you have to be completely ready when it comes, at any level. Don't take any of it for granted. You may be at a lower level and have been lucky to get on good shows but if you take it for granted, it will catch up with you as you move up the ladder. Because eventually, you're going to be expensive enough that people are going to start calling other showrunners you've worked with. There in an infuriatingly large number of people who seem to think getting jobs in TeeVee is their God-given right. Don't worry. They'll be faced with reality around supervising producer level.
Anyway, that was a long-ass tangent. Things in Teevee aren't going to change, not in the traditional sense. The same people are going to be making pilots, and the same people are going to be on staff. Every once in awhile, someone's gonna break through. But it's not going to radically change TeeVee. The system's in place to reward people for certain reasons and that's the way it's gonna stay. It's a business with capricious rules.
Homefront Radio has a GREAT comment about "Pushing Daisies." GO READ IT. I feel your fury and frustration. I haven't seen episode three yet but I'm going to get really drunk before I watch it. Maybe that will help. I should have been really drunk to watch the last episode of "Bionic Woman." Christ on a pony, that show's awful. It really is everything that's bad about TeeVee. It's so generic there isn't anything of substance to it. And apparently, the way to lighten the show up is to cram in some wistful girl singer with her droopy guitar over Jaime's sad face at the end of every episode.
The sister stuff is particularly annoying. Isn't there any other note they can play? "Jaime, tell me what's going on!" Enough already. Every episode so far has revolved around (as much as a plotless episode could) Jaime's bionics/the bionic program/Will/Sarah. EVERY EFFING EPISODE! It's apparent that nobody figured out exactly what this "program" is, what the bionics can or cannot do, what the hell Miguel Ferrer and his underground buddies DO or who they answer to, what the arc of the mythology will be, what Jaime is really for, the relationship between Jaime and her FOUR MENTORS, what Sarah's attitude and goals are... the beat goes on. The show is just tepid and horrible. The plots don't make any sense. Most egregiously, there's no voice or vision. Where's the point of view with this show? Where's the point of view with the characters? What Jaime wants varies from scene to scene and is dependent on the action. It's the same with her and her sister's relationship. It's either fantastic, her sister's a teen rebel, or her sister's yelling at her for lying.
In this past episode Jaime tells her sister she's going to Napa with a friend. The friend shows up and the sister is, understandably, freaked. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF SPY AGENCY IS THIS? How is Jaime allowed to make up her own legend? Did these writers do ANY research or put ANY thought into it? Did they even watch one episode of Alias? This is emblematic of the central problem with the show -- no forethought. There was no effort made to sit down and THINK about any of this stuff. They don't have any rules. I was going to keep watching the show so I'd have something to complain about in the blog, but I just can't do it anymore. Not even for you, gentle readers. The show's just too awful. But know this -- EVERY SINGLE WRITER will get a job off this show because they've got a high profile NBC show on their resumes.
And no, life isn't fair.
The show almost makes me want to fix it with a spec, but fuck them.
Kristen remembers the Shaun Cassidy pilot -- it was called "Wilder." I think that today, it would be on the air. But that's Shaun for you... usually a bit ahead of the curve.
np - Shack, "Time Machine." Man, I love Shack and this greatest hits collection showcases one of England's most influential bands.