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Writers Blocked

Song Lyric of the Day:

John Willmot penned his poetry /Riddled with the pox / Nabakov wrote on index cards / At a lectem, in his socks / St. John of the Cross did his best stuff / Imprisoned in a box

It’s been interesting to read comments on various TV blogs and infotainment sites about the tv and film writers’ strike (now almost 10 weeks old). I say interesting because while a lot of people understand that writers are a very large, very important part of all those fantastical movies and TV shows we enjoy, a lot of people think the writers are greedy SOBs who should be crucified. And, yes, I’ve seen that word used on occasion with regard to this, which I don’t quite understand.

These days, the media landscape is continually changing and reinventing itself at a breakneck rate. Among other, more traditional options, we can now choose to watch TV shows and movies via free online downloads, paid online downloads, TiVo/DVRs, TV on demand, movies on demand, and as DVD sets to be watched ad nauseam. So are the writers behind said fantastical movies and TV shows entitled to a bigger piece of the pie? I think they most definitely are.

At its most basic level, the writers’ demands for more pay/fairer contracts boils down to simple human nature: We all have a basic need to be given our proper due for our professional contributions, whether it be attribution or financial compensation. In the case of this strike, TV and film writers are privy to studio and production company numbers showing how all these wonderful new media options are affecting the studios’ bottom lines. And they are now demanding their perceived fair share for their professional contributions; I say perceived only because I don’t know exact numbers and can’t pretend to know those type of specifics.

Our favorite TV and movie actors become our favorites for countless different reasons. Maybe we like how they look. Maybe we can relate to that tic or personality quirk they have. Maybe it’s the type of dramatic or comedic roles they specialize in. Maybe they sound the same, have the same accent, have the same eye color, were born in the same city — you get the idea. But when we discuss that movie or that show, what do most of us end up referencing? Special effects and wardrobe aside, we typically hone in on quotes. The words those actors speak are what affect us the way they do. Combined with mannerisms, reactions, personalities, it all serves to paint a larger picture of who those characters are and what they mean to us.

We’re almost out of fresh scripted TV shows to watch this season. The Office ended weeks ago, Grey’s Anatomy ends tonight, and the end is fast approaching for many other shows. The Golden Globe Awards have been canceled; the Oscars may be next. Soon our airwaves are going to be flooded with more reality TV shows than I ever could have imagined in my worst nightmares. Late-night hosts are floundering without their writing staffs (proving, once again, how hard improv is). Besides writers, countless other industry professionals are being laid off; the strike is hurting almost everyone behind the scenes. There’s seemingly no end in sight for this strike. And while I will dearly miss watching my favorite TV shows on a regular basis, I have to support the writers’ demands for increased compensation. It’s thanks to their creativity (Supernatural), their wittiness (My Name Is Earl), their genius (30 Rock), their heart (Ugly Betty), their ability to build these amazing worlds (Pushing Daisies), their attention to detail (The Wire) that I so thoroughly enjoy what I’m watching.

I may not always believe what I see on TV or in a movie. I may not always like what a character says. I may not always agree with a character’s actions. I may overlook a plothole because it’s easier than searching for an explanation. But I will always, always let myself suspend disbelief and allow my imagination to feast as I become immersed in what I’m watching, whether it’s for 22 minutes or 2 1/2 hours. And for that privilege, I not only thank the actors, directors, producers, craft people, and gaffers, but I wholeheartedly thank the writers, as well.

*Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily blog is a good source for the latest strike news.
*You can see how many episodes of your shows are left here and here.

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