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The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike May 1. This will change what you see on-screen, starting right now. Here’s what has happened so far and what could lie head.
Why the people who write the shows you watch have gone on strike
A WGA member survey found that writers’ pay has plunged 14 percent in five years, and writer-producers earn 23 percent less than 10 years ago. Some say their earnings have been cut in half. Their income will likely plummet more soon, thanks to technology and a grim economy. Bill Lawrence, cocreator of the terrific show Shrinking, which stars Jason Segel and Harrison Ford, told the Los Angeles Times, “This will become a business that you can only do if your parents are well-off enough to help pay your rent.” Some writers have already moved back in with their parents.
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The first casualty of the strike: Late night just went dark
Without his writers, Stephen Colbert joked on May 1, “this show would be called The Late Show With a Guy Rambling About the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Boats for an Hour.” On May 2, Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers shut down their shows’ production. It’s likely no accident that James Corden ended his show last week. Saturday Night Live canceled this week’s show, which was to be hosted by Pete Davidson, and will air reruns “until further notice.”
Next to go: daytime soap operas — and maybe prime-time hits
Soaps are likely to start running out of scripts by June. And don’t bet the ranch on your favorite prime-time shows’ new seasons. May is when writers usually start creating the fall TV season, and for now, they won’t be doing so. Maybe we’ll see a winter TV season instead. Movies take longer to make, but the strike could delay them, too, if it lasts long enough.
How long will the strike last?
The last writers’ strike, in 2007–8, lasted 100 days. The 1998 strike lasted 153 days.
What the writers want
The strikers are asking for $429 million a year in raises. “That’s less than The Super Mario Bros. Movie grossed in the US in a month,” showbiz pundit Mark Harris posted on Twitter. It’s an average raise of $37,304 for the 11,500 writers. “When [Netflix CEO] Ted Sarandos is making $50 million, the optics are so bad,” says Chapman Film School Dean Stephen Galloway. “It’s also about respect. A lot of writers really believe that the companies that make the shows really want to shut down the Guild.”
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