News

Golden Globes, Oscars in strike range

Rick Kushman
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

I keep trying to not write about the Hollywood writers strike because it's so infuriating - I blame the studios and networks at this point - but there keeps being more stuff to deal with.

Today, it's about the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, which look to be the latest victims of the strike. The Writers Guild of America decided this week that it won't give waivers to either show, meaning no scripted monologues or presentations, and, most likely, fewer stars.

Jon Stewart, the host of the Oscar show scheduled for Feb. 24 on ABC, is a guild member and would be prohibited even from writing for himself. Stewart hasn't commented on the WGA move.

The more immediate, and more certain, damage is going to hit the Globes, which are scheduled for Jan. 13 on NBC. Although that show doesn't use a host so it doesn't need a monologue, no waiver means no writers for the star presenters, and you don't want some of those people winging it.

Worse for NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the Globes, is this means the writers will picket, and a lot of stars - whose own union, the Screen Actors Guild, has strongly backed the WGA and is about to start its contract talks - have already said they won't cross the lines.

It's hard to blame the writers for their decision. The networks and studios have been bragging that their bottom lines look great because they don't have to pay the thousands and thousands of people put out of work by the strike. Why would the writers want to give NBC a good ratings payday?

NBC has not said what it will do about the Globes show, but you have to wonder if there will be anything to watch. The actual award means little, despite the Hollywood PR machines that try to translate them into Oscar nominations, and the whole telecast is really just about seeing stars party. This could be one very quiet party.

The Oscars are a bigger quandary. Despite the growing bitterness between writers and the studio/network alliance, there is still some hope the labor fight may be settled by late February.

If it isn't, however, there will be some tough choices to make for lots of people in Hollywood. The Academy Awards make for the biggest night in show business and they have a major impact on both bottom lines and egos. Writers and actors love being there.

But maybe not this year. The writers also are refusing to allow the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to use clips from movies and past award shows on the 2008 broadcast.

On the other hand, there's talk the writers and actors may still want the TV show to go on so they can collect their statues and then make their "studios reek" speeches.

___

In more strike news: If you hadn't heard, NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will return on Jan. 2.

All three hosts plan to be back without writers, and because of WGA rules, they won't be allowed to write monologues, even for themselves. They can, however, stand and talk, and do interviews with stars pushing movies or fad diets.

The tone of press statements from all the stars made it clear that they're making tough choices, and, essentially, that their networks are forcing them back by laying off their non-writing staffs until the shows restart.

"Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than a hundred people whose financial well-being depends on our show," Kimmel said Tuesday. "I support my colleagues and friends in the WGA completely and hope this ends both fairly and soon."

"Now that the talks have broken down," Leno said in his statement, "I feel it's my responsibility to get my 100 non-writing staff, which were laid off, back to work. We fully support our writers and I think they understand my decision."

O'Brien was even more explicit, and almost said NBC was making hostages of his crew.

"My career in television started as a WGA member and my subsequent career as a performer has only been possible because of the creativity and integrity of my writing staff. Unfortunately," he said, "I am left with a difficult decision: either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for 14 years, to lose their jobs."

The three hosts have been paying the salaries of their non-writing crews since the strike started Nov. 5. David Letterman, too, has been paying his non-writing staff, as well as the staff of "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," because Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, owns both.

Letterman may also be back in January - with writers - because his independent company has been negotiating with the WGA on its own, separate from the studio/network alliance that seems bent on destroying all laughter everywhere so a few moguls can look powerful. (OK, maybe that sounded a bit angry, and too simple, but it's not 100 percent wrong, either.)

The late-night shows have been the most obvious casualty of the strike, just like the last time the writers walked out in 1988. Johnny Carson brought "The Tonight Show" back after about two months for pretty much the same reason, to keep the paychecks coming for his staff.

If CBS' Letterman and Ferguson come back with their writings staffs, they'll have big advantages over their competitors. That's something O'Brien acknowledged in his statement, which was also a testimonial of solidarity with the writers.

"I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers," he said, "and I'll do the best version of `Late Night' I can under the circumstances. Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve."

___

Today's edition of "What'd They Do to My Show?" has a couple good items.

ABC has announced that the return date for "Lost" is Jan. 31. Note that's not a night "American Idol" is currently scheduled. The bet here, though, is Fox has a special Thursday broadcast of "Idol" that week, because that's how the nets roll these days.

"Lost," by the way, will air only eight of the 16 episodes planned for the season, unless something changes soon in Strikeland.

"Torchwood," the smart, high-energy, witty sci-fi series from BBC America will start its second 13-episode season on Jan. 26. This is one of the best shows on TV, but it's got a short season simply because it's British, and that's how they roll.

Because people have been asking, we'll say this again: "24" has not been scheduled to return in 2008, and it won't be back until producers and Fox are certain they can get all 24 segments made.

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