[16 January 2008]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
I am seriously trying to produce a column with no mention of the Hollywood writers strike, but events keep unfolding (I hate events) and now, it seems, we may have problems with the Grammys.
The annual music awards show, scheduled for Feb. 10 on CBS, got the latest dark cloud hung over it this week when a Writers Guild spokesman said a waiver for the show is “unlikely,” and a handful of music stars said they’d back the writers.
Gregg Mitchell, of the Writers Guild of America, issued a statement that said no official decisions have been made, including whether the writers would picket, “but if a waiver is requested for the Grammys, it is unlikely to be granted.”
Meanwhile, others in Hollywood said off the record that they expect that no waiver means there will be a picket line.
What turned the recent Golden Globes to rubble was support of the writers by the Screen Actors Guild, and the refusal of stars to cross the picket line. A number of music stars, including Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Queen Latifah, are also SAG members and are likely to honor any picketing, and some non-SAG music stars are saying they, too, might stay away.
What does that mean for the show? It’s unclear at the moment, although after the slapdash disaster of the Golden Globes - which, if you’re counting, drew a fourth-place, 5.8 million viewers Sunday night on NBC - you have to know CBS and Grammy organizers are worried.
It’s also possible the show can be salvaged, depending on the attitude of the nominees. If enough music stars decide to show up and perform, CBS could still scrape together a decent show. Or, the stars may go for solidarity with their fellow artists and decide to stick it to the Man/entertainment corporations.
The third option would be the strike gets settled in three weeks. But since the writers and the studio/network alliance haven’t talked since Dec. 7, don’t bet too heavily on Option 3.
In another development this week that’s more of an insider concern, most of the major TV studios have cut off deals with 60-plus writers and producers who are not involved in ongoing projects - meaning they aren’t on shows that are airing now or would be in development if there were no strike.
All the studios have long-term contracts with writers, and pay in the range of $500,000 to $2 million annually for them. They are, essentially, holding deals that allow those writers and producers to try to develop shows.
However, the studios this week activated a common clause in the contracts that allows them to terminate the deals if there’s a continuing strike, and this one has been continuing since Nov. 5.
The overall impact on TV is minimal, because when the strike eventually gets settled - unless it’s infinite - the studios can hire them back. But it is another sign of the financial impact of the strike, as the studios take more steps both in cost-cutting and in playing hardball.
In non-strike TV happenings - see, I can do this - we have news you knew would come eventually: Oprah Winfrey is starting her own TV network.
Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced Tuesday that the Oprah Winfrey Network will start next year and take the place in the cable lineup of what’s now the Discovery Health Channel.
The announcement said Oprah’s network will be owned half by her and half by Discovery, and that the deal was a cashless transaction. Although rights to Winfrey’s current talk show are tied up until 2011, the announcement also said she expects to use many of her regular contributors.
And, by the way, how perfect is the acronym for the Oprah Winfrey Network: OWN. Because, someday soon, and this may not be such a bad thing, Oprah will probably own, you know, everything.
Finally, we have a (sigh) strike version of What’d They Do to My Show? Here’s a list of the network and major cable shows that have run out of new episodes.
That doesn’t mean some won’t show up in reruns - Showtime’s “Dexter,” for instance, will air on CBS in February, and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” ran through its first-run cache on USA and is now in repeats on NBC.
It does mean it will be a long while before you see a new episode. If your show isn’t on the list, there are at least a couple more to go, though no promises about when they’ll air.
ABC: “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” Pushing Daisies” and “Women’s Murder Club.”
AMC: “Mad Men.”
CBS: “The Big Bang Theory,” “Cane,” “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Two and a Half Men” and “The Unit.”
CW: “The Game,” “Girlfriends” and “Gossip Girl.”
FX: “Damages,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Rescue Me.”
HBO: “Big Love,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “Flight of the Conchords” and “Tell Me You Love Me.”
Lifetime: “Army Wives.”
NBC: “30 Rock,” “Bionic Woman,” “Heroes,” “Journeyman,” “Life,” “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office.”
Sci Fi: “Eureka.”
Showtime: “Brotherhood,” “Californication,” “Dexter” and “Weeds.”
TBS: “My Boys.”
TNT: “The Closer” and “Saving Grace.”
USA: “Burn Notice” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”