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WGA Strike Watch: How This Season Is Being Rewritten

by TV Guide Staff
Read Studios Starting to Cut New Shows
First, it was writer-producer rosters that studios started axing, ostensibly in response to the strike. Now, some studios have started scaling back not just shows currently on TV, but development slates for upcoming seasons.

Following CBS' axing of 20 shows, which was announced Friday, the CW and Fox are the next lots to start slimming down the list of upcoming series, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Fox dropped about 24 potential projects, which are said to include comedies and dramas, while the CW let go of about 12 of the same types of scripts. ABC is rumored to be the next big player to start scraping off the development slate. Shows that were cut across the networks include projects from the Wayans brothers (does that mean no Fly Girls no the horizon?!), Josh Berman (CSI) and Rob Hanning (Hope & Faith, Malcolm in the Middle).

Both Fox and the CW released statements about the cuts. Fox cited the "current environment" (aka the halting of production during the strike) and said it would be taking "a hard look" at its "needs for the upcoming season." The CW was slightly more straightforward with the finger-pointing, saying, "Due to the ongoing work stoppage, the CW will be taking a more targeted approach to what is certain to be a truncated pilot season."

It's obviously a sad time for the creative community and the viewing community. But is it possible that this more "targeted approach" could mean better programming — just less of it? How do you think TV programming will look next season? — Anna Dimond
Read Writers, Producers Resume Talks Wednesday; WGA Takes Two Issues Off Table
A joint statement from the WGA and AMPTP confirms that which was reported days ago: the two sides, whose stalemate began on Nov. 5, and who have not confabbed since Dec. 6, are set to resume talks. "On Wednesday, January 23rd, the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will begin informal discussions to determine if there is a basis for both parties to return to formal negotiations," reads the statement. "Both the AMPTP and the WGA have agreed to make no public comments about the informal discussions until those discussions have concluded."

All signs indicate that the guild is ready to talk brass tacks, with the WGA West and East presidents telling members in a letter, "In order to make absolutely clear our commitment to bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations we have decided to withdraw our proposals on reality and animation," two of the six stumbling blocks which ultimately led the AMPTP to leave the table. — Matt Mitovich

More WGA strike coverage:
Female Writers May Lose Chance to Shine at Oscars
Music to Grammys' Ears: WGA Won't Picket
Oscars to Go On, As Execs Downplay Strike Impact
Read Female Writers May Lose Chance to Shine at Oscars
The glass ceiling is broken but for the top female screenwriters in Hollywood other obstacles remain. This year four women have received Academy Award nominations in the two screenplay categories, but unless a waiver is issued soon (or the strike comes to an end), it looks like their moment to shine will be lost.

For Diablo Cody (Juno), Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl), Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) and Sarah Polley (Away From Her), these could be victories that change precedence, a concern that is not lost on Louis J Horvitz, director of the 80th Annual Academy Awards. "The possibility of them not being able to take their moment and hold that golden Oscar is something that's going to be playing on their mind for the rest of their lives, because there may only be one shot at this," he told TV Guide at Tuesday morning's nominations ceremony. "They deserve to be recognized as writers with poignant subject matters, [and] I feel for them. This award is not like any other award. This is the Oscar. You'll take any award that you've got to trade for that one Oscar. And you don't want to be on a picket line to get it." — Carita Rizzo

More WGA strike coverage:
Writers, Producers Resume Talks Wednesday; WGA Takes Two Issues Off Table
Music to Grammys' Ears: WGA Won't Picket
Oscars to Go On, As Execs Downplay Strike Impact
Oscars Boss Preps a Plan B, If Show Is Picketed
Read Music to Grammys' Ears: WGA Won't Picket
The WGA announced on Tuesday that it would not picket the Feb. 10 Grammy Awards, thus freeing up any involved or intersted talent to attend, perform and/or present at the ceremony. The guild stopped short of offering a waiver to the Grammys, however, meaning that WGA writers won't be able to scribble for the show. "We are pleased with the decision made by the WGA today," says Recording Academy president Neil Portnow. "In light of this, we are gratified that the 50th annual Grammy Awards will focus solely on the great music, artists and charitable work resulting from our show. We look forward to unveiling the exciting lineup of artists who will give our worldwide audience one of the most memorable Grammy shows ever."

More strike coverage:
Female Writers May Lose Chance to Shine at Oscars
Oscars to Go On, As Execs Downplay Strike Impact
WGA, Studios Plan to Reach Out and Start Talking
Read Oscars to Go On, As Execs Downplay Strike Impact
080122academyawards.jpg
Oscar statuette by Bob D'Amico/ABC
The Oscars show will go on, but not without the benefit of Hollywood-style rationalization as to why the Academy would hold the event in the face of a writers strike. After all, if the strike continues into the kudoscast's Feb. 24 date, both writers and actors who would potentially be attending as guests or nominees would likely not attend.

In response to the potential conflict of interest, several event officials emphasize that of the 26 award categories, only four are for acting (and thus would benefit from the presence of the announced winner). Add in some musical extravaganzas, clips of Hollywood through history, and voila — you've got an awards show. Still, Academy Awards director Louis J. Horvitz tells TV Guide, "We need [the writers]. And it's doing us no good with them being on the picket lines when we're hoping that they're going to be with us on the 24th."

To make sure no one doubts his commitment to the WGA, Horvitz says, "Nobody is denying for any moment that the writers don't deserve respect. I totally respect them." That said, he notes that the Academy Awards aren't really that much about writers, and as such would eschew a Golden Globes-esque watering down: "[A]s I said, there are 22 awards that have nothing to do with writers, and [categories that] have nothing to do with actors."

Academy Awards producer Gil Cates also confirms the show's status and reiterates Horvitz's points. Even if the strike is still going on, he said, "Some people may cross the picket line, and some may not, but the show's the show. There's entertainment, there are going to be production numbers, so I feel very confident that it will be a good show."

And what are the chances of the show not having to scale back the categories that do honor writers and actors? AMPAS prez Sid Ganis says his organization is "in the process of talking to the WGA" regarding a possible waiver. In the meantime, though, "We're going on as planned. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of people to honor — some of them are actors, and many of them are not." — Anna Dimond, with reporting by Carita Rizzo

Related:
Female Writers May Lose Chance to Shine at Oscars
Oscars Boss Preps a Plan B, If Show Is Picketed
Read WGA, Studios Plan to Reach Out and Start Talking
Let the thawing begin! According to the HollywoodReporter.com, the WGA plans to begin informal talks with studio execs, possibly even by Monday, as part of their work to restart negotiations with the AMPTP. An anonymous guild source let the word out that the icy tundra of discontent that's developed since talks broke off Dec. 7 may be seeing a glimmer of sunshine.

The news of the talks follows a deal made yesterday between the DGA and the AMPTP, which, the source said, the WGA plan to "study."

"We're going to follow the same pattern as the DGA," the source was quoted as saying, "first meeting with the studio executives informally and then maybe following that up with actual negotiations."

Let's hope the two parties follow through and take the DGA's success to heart. It seems to be working already. — Anna Dimond

Related:
DGA, AMPTP Shake on a Deal
Read Strike Changing How We're Watching TV
The WGA writers' strike is changing more than what's on TV. A new survey reveals that 35 percent of Americans have changed the way they consume media since the strike began, and 27 percent are turning the tube on for network shows less and less, according to WorldScreen.com.

The study, which was conducted by Interpret consulting, also shows that Americans are hip to what's going down in Hollywood, with 94 percent saying that they're aware of the WGA strike. Of those, more than half understood the issues involved.

And among super-duper TV watchers (who log in 21 or more hours a week), more and more of them are turning on the DVD player instead of the television. Among that group, though, just under a quarter of them aren't turning to DVDs, but getting their stories the old-fashioned way: They're reading. What are you doing differently during the strike? Let us know!
— Anna Dimond


POLLS:
Are you watching less TV these days? Vote here.
How have you "replaced" TV? Vote here.

Related:
Strike Survival Guide
Oscars Boss Preps a Plan B
Read Oscars Boss Preps a Plan B, If Show Is Picketed
Academy Awards producer Gil Cates this week hinted at a contingency plan for his own kudoscast, lest Hollywood's truly grandest night be turned into the sad non-spectacle that the WGA-picketed Globes became.

Though Cates is being circumspect about how he would navigate a picketed Oscars ceremony, Variety says the alternative telecast likely would rely on A-listers penning their own presentation banter, and would be peppered with pretaped segments.

Readying a Plan B is prudent, seeing as the WGA has shown no sign of blessing the Feb. 24 event. "[Our] board of directors has already voted to deny a waiver to the Academy if they ask for one," WGA West president Patric Verrone has said, explaining that the Guild's priority instead is "to get the conglomerates back to the table." — Matt Mitovich
Read AMPTP Makes Deal with DGA, High-fives All Around!
Finally, finally, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Directors Guild of America shook hands and made a deal today. After days of being on the edge of their seats, Hollywood observers can finally sit back with a sigh of relief.

In a joint statement from the CEOs of the AMPTP and the DGA, the deal allows the "industry's creative talent... [to] now participate financially in every emerging area of new media." The CEOs went on to add that "the agreement demonstrates beyond any doubt that our industry's producers are willing and able to work with the creators of entertainment content to establish fair and flexible rules for this fast-changing marketplace."

Following that statement, AMPTP prez Nick Counter gave himself a pat on the back and a big high-five to his new DGA allies on getting through such a tough deal. In a statement he said, "Of the 307 labor agreements the AMPTP has negotiated since 1982, this new DGA-AMPTP pact surely dealt with some of the most challenging issues we've ever faced.... In the end, though," he continued, "both parties were determined to focus on the core issues that are most important to all of us, and the result is an agreement that breaks important new ground for our entire industry."

The powers-that-be also invited the WGA to engage in similar types of negotiation talks. This is one great step for Hollywood, but will the quick diplomacy have any impact on the WGA's efforts? Does this put more pressure on Guild prez Patric Verrone and other negotiators to shake on it — and quick? — Anna Dimond

Related:
Writers "Likely" to Picket Oscars
Striking Writers Head for Internet
Read Warner Bros. Axes Facilities Workers
In the latest round of strike-related job cuts, Warner Bros. today axed close to three dozen people from its facilities staff, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In November, the studio notified the more than 1,000 workers on its facilities roster that their jobs were potentially in jeopardy because of the WGA strike. Following today's layoff, the company issued a statement explaining their efforts to minimize the layoff and apologizing "for the impact this has on our non-striking workforce."

The WB layoff follows cuts in writer and producer rosters at several studios in the past week, starting with those at ABC. As the DGA is rumored to be nearing a deal with studios, the stakes are getting higher every day. WGA prez Patric M. Verrone commented on the losses — and potential gains — from the strike today on Fox Business Network. "We're on strike here for the future," he said. "And, what we earn back or what we've lost in earnings over the past few weeks — sure, you can weigh that pound for pound, dollar for dollar... but because we're striking for the future, because we've got the entire wave of writers, actors and directors being paid in new media on the line, it's incalculable."

How do you think business will be affected next? Give us your view. — Anna Dimond

More WGA strike coverage:
Networks Rain on Stars' SAG Awards Plans
Writers "Likely" to Picket Oscars
WGA Strike May Cramp Grammys' Groove
More Studios Ax Deals, Take ABC's Lead
Read Striking Writers Head for the Internet
Today was the deadline for proposals for Strike TV, a new online channel that striking members of the WGA are setting up. The site, which will live on the United Hollywood website, will feature original video shorts and shows created by "working professionals" in the TV and film biz, and is set to launch in February.

OnlineMedia.com reported that the new channel's designed not only to showcase what the striking professionals are made of — without the studios — but also to raise ad revenue that will go to the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund. Strike TV's MySpace page emphasizes that proposals should be for fresh material that shows off creativity and avoids nasty legal hassles.

Will Strike TV remain a political statement or morph into something bigger? And who will be some of the first contributors? No one's revealed that so far, but my money's on some of the brightest brains in town, whose work we're already missing. Who's your money on? — Anna Dimond

Related:
More Studios Ax Deals, Take ABC's Lead
Strike Survival Guide: How to Make the Best of a Sad Situation
Read Writers "Likely" to Picket Oscars
080116academyawards.jpg
Oscar statuette by Bob D'Amico/ABC
If the Oscars go as planned, it's "likely" that writers will picket the event, WGA West president Patric M. Verrone told Extra today — although nothing had yet been "decided affirmatively." Adding über-gravitas to his comments, he also noted that what the Oscars (and the Grammys) need most to get on the air "is a contract."

But whether the Oscars will happen at all is still up in the air. Verrone confirmed that the board had voted and did not grant the waiver that would have allowed the event to take place.

The prez's statements further highlight the seeming deadlock on the awards front, which means we can pretty much hang up our tuxes for a while. Do you think the Oscars will go on? Are waivers worth pursuing? Let us know. — Anna Dimond

Related:
Strike May Cramp Grammys' Groove
Strike Survival Guide: How to Make the Best of a Sad Situation
Read Strike May Cramp Grammys' Groove
080115justintimberlake.jpg
Justin Timberlake by Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com
As if the Golden Globes' press conference wasn't enough of a wet blanket for the awards season — not to mention for the entertainment business — the Grammys may be the next event to suffer from the ongoing WGA strike, Ad Age reports.

Some of music's biggest stars — including Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent and Queen Latifah — are also Screen Actors Guild members, and the WGA is lobbying them to opt out of attending or presenting at the ceremony to show their solidarity with striking writers. While interim agreements have been made with several production studios, such as David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and the Weinstein Co., the fate of a WGA waiver for the Grammys is still undetermined.

The decision to grant a waiver "hasn't been made," WGA West President Patric M. Verrone told Extra. "Anything is possible," he added. "What's most likely to get the Grammys... on the air is a contract."

Given the current state of affairs, no one is likely to get sexy back on the red carpet anytime soon. But is the WGA overstepping? Should JT et al show solidarity, or show up anyway? How do you think this might affect the show, if it goes on at all? — Anna Dimond

Related:
Writers "Likely" to Picket Oscars
Strike Survival Guide: How to Make the Best of a Sad Situation
Read More Studios Ax Deals, Take ABC's Lead
Four TV studios, including Warner Bros. TV, CBS Paramount Network TV, 20th Century Fox TV and Universal Media Studios have axed deals with producers and writers on their rosters, according to Variety. The networks cite the effects of the WGA strike as the catalyst. Their decisions almost immediately follow a similar move by ABC Studios on Friday, which some sources said also initiated some larger-scale trimming of staff.

While none of the numbers are definitive, CBS Paramount has cut more than half a dozen (but had fewer to start with than other studios), including Mark Johnson, John McNamara, René Echevarria and Hugh Jackman, who, the Hollywood Reporter notes, had a multi-year deal as a nonwriting producer for Seed Productions, among others.

At 20th Century Fox, almost 15 producers have been released from contracts, including K-Ville producer Jonathan Lisco and writer Larry Kaplow, as well as Journeyman's Paul Redford. The team of Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (Pepper Dennis), were also cut, but they will return as staffers on the returning Women's Murder Club.

Not much information is available on either the WB cuts or those at UMS, but Warner is said to be terminating fewer than six deals. All of the studios issued statements in which they blamed the strike for their decisions. Given this tumult in the hub of the industry, where will this lead creative talent — and creative content? Do you see an eventual turnaround, or has the industry been changed irrevocably? Give us your take. — Anna Dimond
Read ABC Studios Axes Multiple Producers, Writers
Apparently even George Clooney couldn't save some of TV's big talents from the studio ax. More than two dozen writers and non-writing producers have been cut from the ABC Studios roster, thanks to a force majeure clause (translation: they can fire anyone at any time under circumstances beyond their control -- aka the WGA strike) that the network exercised Friday, according to Variety. Every studio has suspended their writers because of the strike, but ABC's decision is the most significant to date, because it's the first network to sever ties completely from any of its talent.

Variety reports that nearly all of the axed deals were those of producers and writers who were not currently working on "major" series. While some insiders are braced for similar cuts at other studios, others suggest that ABC's broad scope in their decision shows that the move was not only in response to the strike, but also an attempt to whittle down their roster in the long-run.

Among those whose deals were ended by the studio, which is owned by Disney, are 'What About Brian's' Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, 'Scrubs's' Bill Callahan, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm's' Larry Charles and 'That '70s Show's' Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia. Among other who were cut is actor Taye Diggs, who had a production deal at ABC with his partner-manager, who was cut from the same deal.

Time to give us your take. Does ABC's aggressive move signal more cuts to come? Or is it the hasty decision of a fearful studio? What will TV start to look like if and when more studios follow suit? — Anna Dimond
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POLL
TV... Or Not TV (Part 2)
What "other entertainment" are you turning to most in lieu of your usual, now absent, TV programming?
POLL
TV... Or Not TV?
As we enter Week 11 of the WGA strike, do you find yourself watching less television these days?
POLL
Entering Week 9....
Who do you support right now in the stalemate between the WGA and the AMPTP?
(This poll has expired.)
84%: The writers
84%
15%: The producers
15%
POLL
Back in Business
By when do you think the WGA strike will be settled?
(This poll has expired.)
7%: Dec. 14
7%
9%: Dec. 21
9%
19%: New Year's
19%
24%: February 1
24%
37%: Much, much later
37%
POLL
Entering Week 5....
Who do you support right now in the stalemate between the WGA and the AMPTP?
(This poll has expired.)
83%: The writers
83%
16%: The producers
16%
POLL
24's Possible Time-out
In light of the strike delay, how would you prefer to see '24' proceed?
(This poll has expired.)
22%: Return as planned Jan. 13, then interrupt season
22%
77%: Delay return until strike impact's better assessed
77%
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