Don't let your spirits SAG — but actors' contract is up

Rick Kushman
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

I really hate to bring this up, but the contract between the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood networks and studios just expired, and there's no agreement in sight.

Here's the good news: No one is talking strike. Here's the bad news: Yet.

More bad news: SAG, Hollywood's biggest union, is feuding with another actors union, studios have mentioned the possibility of a lockout, and right now, ambition and egos are flaring big in a town where those always burn hot.

This comes, of course, after a 100-day writers strike that ended in February, decimated the TV season and severely slowed movie production.

Both sides say they will continue to talk and work without a contract, which means any actor-involved work stoppage, if there is one, probably wouldn't come until late July. No one's saying there will be a strike or lockout, but the effects this time would be even worse, considering the lingering damage.

Movie production has nearly stopped already because of wariness, and work on the fall TV season is just about to gear up. Both those industries would take huge hits from a strike or lockout. The collateral financial damage to the craft and trade people in Hollywood could put them out of the business.

And why are contract talks so tough this year? Blame the emerging, morphing, unpredictable digital world. Entertainment options are everywhere and changing by the minute. No one knows what's next, and everyone is trying to put themselves in a good position to benefit financially from whatever does come. If they don't destroy themselves first.

I'll keep you posted on all that fun, but in the meantime, we've got this week's What to Watch (Or Not).

This is a massive week for sports - and not much else - since a holiday is bearing down on us, so let's start with that.

The Olympic Track & Field Trials from Eugene, Ore., are in full stride. Here's the TV schedule:

Tonight at 11:05 on USA.

Thursday at 11 p.m. on USA.

Friday at 11 p.m. on USA.

Saturday at 5 p.m. on NBC.

Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC (mixed in with the swimming trials).

The Tour de France, one of the world's most spectacular sporting events, begins Saturday, and for the first time since 1967, there's no short-sprint prologue. Instead, they'll get right to the roads with a near-200 km stage (at 8:30 a.m. on Versus, repeating at 10:30 a.m. and through the day).

Stage 2 is Sunday (also at 8:30 a.m. and repeating at noon).

Wimbledon reaches its finals this weekend, too. The women's championship match is Saturday (at 9 a.m. on NBC), and the men's final is Sunday (at 9 a.m. on NBC).

Earlier rounds air at 10 a.m. (on NBC) through Wednesday, and at noon Thursday and Friday.

As for the rest of the week, here are some of what pickings there are.


"The History Detectives" (9 p.m. on PBS): It's Season 6 for these sleuths of yesteryear, and tonight they look into the diary of a pilot who died in World War II and at a 1853 coin supposedly with bullet marks from an Annie Oakley Wild West show.


"30 Days" (10:05 p.m. on FX): In a bit of timely scheduling, this hour has a gun-control advocate living for a month with a hunter who works in a gun store. Note that it airs after a five-minute mini-episode of "Rescue Me" (at 10).


"MonsterQuest" (9 p.m. on History): This week, they look into reports of monster rats as big as cats. Probably a good idea to finish dinner before you watch this.


"Last Comic Standing" (8 p.m. on NBC): It's the last night of the two-hour semifinals, and this is where the show gets better, because the tryout rounds aren't so great. Bad comics aren't nearly as funny as bad singers.


Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island (9 a.m. on ESPN): Last year, Joey Chestnut upset Takeru Kobayashi, the Tiger Woods of "competitive eating" - honestly, that's what they call it - by downing 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. The man ate 66 full-size dogs and buns in 12 minutes. The whole mess is handled with magnificently impressive kitsch, and you have to see this spectacle. Once, anyway.


"A Gunfighter's Pledge" (9 p.m. on Hallmark): Luke Perry is the sheriff in a classic Western tale about bad guys trying to take land from good guys. And guess what? There's a showdown.


"The Simpsons Movie" (9 p.m. on HBO): If you haven't seen the movie yet, here you go. The plot basics: Homer puts his family and the planet in peril. As always.

"The Next Food Network Star" (10 p.m. on Food Network): I'm mad at this show for not being better, but I still watch, so I'm just putting this out there.

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