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Reality Bites

By P.F. Wilson · February 1st, 2001 · Channel Surfing
Just when things seem to be going well, something comes and let's a greased pig loose. In May, the contract between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the major movie and television studios is set to expire. If no agreement is reached, there will be no production. If there is an agreement, we still have to worry about the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) walking out in July.

The WGA and the studios began talks last week. At stake are the usual issues of money, greenbacks and, of course, dinero. The writers would like more, and the producers would like to keep more, even as record amounts of it line their pockets.

It's an issue Americans don't approach with a lot of sympathy. The producers are not struggling business people, and the writers aren't in danger of having a mine shaft collapse on them. No, to the selfish American TV viewer it means several bumps in the TV schedule, with the greatest impact coming next fall when the new season is scheduled to start.

Producers seemingly have the upper hand, at least on the TV side, as they are perfectly willing to pony up the dough (I still love that expression) for "reality" programming and game shows.

On the other hand, the writers have an advantage in that producers are perfectly willing to pony up the dough for "reality" programming and game shows.

If the strike commences and lasts more than a month or so, then brace yourself. We'll be looking in on the uninteresting goings-on of extraordinarily uninteresting people. Mix that with a bunch of game shows that no one will watch since Regis Philbin isn't the host.

Sports fans may benefit, as might news junkies. These two categories don't require WGA members, and they're cheap to produce. The networks would relish the opportunity to widen profit margins with schedules filled with the likes of Millionaire, Dateline and prime-time sports programming.

Speaking (or more accurately writing) of sports, this all sounds familiar doesn't it? Although there is a major difference between the WGA, SAG and, say, any of the players' unions in the four major sports: The player's unions argue that they're fighting for the little guy. Problem is, the little guys make $250,000 minimum. In the WGA and SAG, the little guys barely scrape by, lucky for every word they sell or part they get. Most of the people in those unions never even get paying gigs.

A lot of repercussions could be felt from a strike, and both sides have wisely come to the table. Look for the producers and SAG to sit down soon as well.

A group that could actually benefit from all this is the networks that show reruns (many of which also own studios!). Unfortunately, Time Warner subscribers recently began receiving TV Land. It's unfortunate because they seem to have dropped all the good reruns like Taxi, St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues in favor of dreck that people didn't like the first time around. They could have a great promotional campaign, should they decide to pick up better oldies: "If you have to watch reruns, why not watch good reruns?" or something like that.

It may also be a good time to catch up on all of the movies you haven't seen. Have you put a dent in that AFI Top 100 from a few years back? I've covered maybe a fifth.

Better yet, people may want to spend time with family and friends. Start hobbies, travel or try to make a little extra money. That's a lot of hard work though.

It's a lot easier just to flip on the tube.



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