Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, September 18th, 2023.
WGA/AMPTP TALKS RESUME ON WEDNESDAY
I've received a lot of questions about this today, with various readers wanting to know if I'm optimistic this latest round of talks with lead to something substantive.
My snarky answer is "Yes, eventually." But it's also a fairly accurate take. I don't believe anyone knows at this point where we'll be next week. But from talking to plenty of people on both sides of the negotiations, I can tell you that nearly every person has the same sense of where we're at. Both sides want to make a deal, but neither side is particularly optimistic that the other side is willing to honestly negotiate.
Which, given the normal state of strike negotiations is....normal?
ANOTHER ARGUMENT AGAINST MINI-ROOMS
The Ankler has a piece from an unnamed showrunner who argues the current system of mini-rooms/development rooms/pre-greenlight rooms isn't just bad for writers, it's bad for television:
Pre-greenlight rooms ARE a waste of money. They’re a waste of money because they don’t do the very thing they’re supposed to do. Theoretically, the pre-greenlight room’s purpose is to generate the material that will enable the network/streamer to make the decision of whether to order a television show. And that decision is based on whether the show will be any good — stop laughing! — based on the material generated by the pre-greenlight room.
The problem is that the work done by a pre-greenlight room is about as indicative of whether a show will be good as an MRI is indicative of cancer and how to treat it: You get some useful information, sure, but not the complete picture. And pre-greenlight rooms leave out a lot of the picture.
Because I believe in respect for writers (a current Hollywood oxymoron, if I ever heard one), I don’t normally say this, but if I can take you into my confidence for a moment, I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are three things at least as important for a TV show as the pilot script: Casting, casting, and casting. Picture Breaking Bad without Bryan Cranston. Imagine Succession without, well, the cast of Succession. Can you see anyone other than Emilia Clarke playing Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones?
This is an argument I wish writers would have been making more forcibly over the past few months. Sure, the changes writers are asking for would make things better for writers. But it would also make production more cost-effective, which is also a good thing for streamers. Business affairs executives love cost-plus spending because at least in theory, it lessens the upside for creatives after a success and that should leave more on the table for the company.
But cost-plus productions (where the streamer pays a percentage of the budget fee to buy out some of the rights) inflates budgets wildly. It encourages dumb spending, because there are fewer consequences to people working on the show. And the way cost-plus deals are structured weirdly encourages over-spending, because that buy-out fee is often based on the approved budget.
I have had more than one person tell me they believe streamers would come out ahead financially dumping cost-plus productions and just paying the old-school residuals. I have no idea whether or not that's true, but the fact so many people in the industry believe it's the case should tell you something.
And you can make a variation of the same argument with mini-rooms. Sure, you're saving money on writers and some of the infrastructure by shaving what you spend on writers during the production process. But even most studio executives will concede not having a writer on-set can often impact the quality of the final product. So saving that money is short-sighted and that's the argument studios are most likely to appreciate: "this scheme is costing you money. If even one or two shows per year were improved enough to give the show a second season, you've now made back what you saved with the mini-room!"
Studios (and privately, some showrunners) are right when they argue that some showrunners want to do it all themselves. I suspect in most case they are wrong - look at any Tyler Perry comedy and ask yourself if it would be better with another set of eyes. But there are ways to structure the MBA so that while a showrunner can opt to have a mini-room or no room at all, the decision doesn't save the studio any money. Doing that will cut down on the current practice of studios "encouraging" showrunners to opt for small writers rooms in order to win a greenlight for the show.
WILL 'DANCING WITH THE STARS' REALLY PREMIERE NEXT WEEK?
So far this week, we've seen a number of shows delay their premiere, following pressure from the WGA over the decision to produce new episodes without assistance from their striking WGA staff. The guild argued (I believe correctly) that someone was still going to have to write parts of the show. And given that the WGA staff is on strike and anyone attempting to replace them would be considered a scab....well, you can see where this was going.
Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Hudson and The Talk have all opted not to premiere new seasons as planned this week. And even Bill Maher has announced he has decided against filming new episodes of his HBO talker. Although in typical Maher style, he couldn't quite bring himself to admit that he had made a mistake.
But questions still hang over next Tuesday's premiere of Dancing With The Stars. While the performers can appear on the show even in the midst of a SAG-AFTRA strike, the show does employ WGA writers to create a number of bits of material. While the show could cut out some of those transitions and pieces, it seems unlikely that NO one is doing any writing on the show.
As a result, the WGA has announced it will be picketing the show's taping, which premieres next Tuesday. So far, ABC has declined to address the issue, but it is going to be interesting to see if the picket lines have any impact on the performers.
I TRY AND STAY NEUTRAL ABOUT SOME STRIKE-RELATED ISSUES...BUT REALLY?!?!?
There are a lot of ways that studios get around having to pay creatives the money they are contractually obligated to receive under the current MBA. One example of that dance is with shows such as the Disney+ "reboot" of Daredevil. Which seems to be more of a season four of the series that once aired on Netflix. But by slightly changing the name and tweaking the show a bit, they can get out of the paying the higher writing, acting and producing fees that would come under a season four. It's similar to the way that Disney slightly changed the name and premise of their teen shows every couple of years in order to pretend they were in a fact newer, cheaper shows.
ODDS AND SODS
* Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson will join Rachel Maddow live in-studio on Monday, September 25th at 9 p.m. ET for her first live interview since testifying in the January 6th Hearings.
* The Food Network and Duff Goldman have signed a new multi-year, multi-project deal, which will include shows like the all-new holiday series The Elf on the Shelf: Sweet Showdown.
TWEET OF THE DAY
WHAT'S NEW TODAY AND TOMORROW:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH:
* Mrs. Sidhu Investigates Series Premiere (Acorn TV)
* My Little Pony: Make Your Mark (Netflix)
* Neighbours Season Premiere (Freevee)
* Superpower (Paramount+)
* The Chelsea Detective Season Two Finale (Acorn TV)
* The Academy Of Country Music Honors (Fox)
* The Big Bake Season Premiere (Food)
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH:
* Becoming Frida Kahlo (PBS)
* Celebrity Name That Tune Season Premiere (Fox)
* I Can See Your Voice Season Premiere (Fox)
* Kountry Wayne: A Woman's Prayer (Netflix)
* Name That Tune Season Premiere (Fox)
* The Saint Of Second Chances (Netflix)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU TUESDAY!