Writers Strike Spawns More Exploitation TV

First, a simple explainer as to the issues causing the Writers Strike, from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) via Ellen Sandler:

The Writers Strike: Why We Fight

Thanks Erin. Now, a look at the world of television without writers:

Writers Strike Means Reality Boom Times
by Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
November 27, 2007

Los Angeles (AP) — For five years, John Langley tried and failed to sell a cinema verite-style TV series tracking police officers on patrol. Then came the 1988 Hollywood writers strike.

“That’s when Fox bought `Cops,’ because a series with no narrator, no host, no script, no re-enactments sounded very good to them at the time,” recalled Langley, who just marked the show’s 700th episode.

The nearly five-month ’88 Writers Guild of America walkout that started in March didn’t unleash a flood of reality, because filming on sitcoms and dramas had largely wrapped and because alternative shows had yet to become a trend.

But the current WGA strike fell smack during production as well as the Age of Reality, putting the brakes on scripted shows and giving networks a quick fix for schedule holes. It remains to be seen how viewers – or the reality genre itself – will withstand the onslaught.

Networks have readied a slate of nearly 40 shows that are stacked up like jetliners over Christmas Eve runways awaiting the go-ahead to land.

Given reality’s popularity, many would have aired strike or not, including Fox’s blockbuster “American Idol,” returning in January, and the next edition of ABC’s hit “Dancing with the Stars.” And how could CW say no to the “Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious” sequel or NBC rebuff “Celebrity Apprentice”?

But there’s so much more in store, including ABC’s “Dancing” spin-off, “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” (Jan. 7) and game show “Duel” (Dec. 17), and Fox’s social experiment “When Women Rule the World” (March 3).

Other new shows are hovering, including Fox’s “The Moment of Truth”; ABC’s “Here Come the Newlyweds”; CBS’ “Million Dollar Password” with Regis Philbin; NBC’s comedy game show “Amne$ia” with Dennis Miller, and CW’s “Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants.”

That reality TV is being used as a bandage to try to stop the networks from bleeding viewers is a sharp irony for the union: It has been attempting to organize the producers and editors it argues actually “write” reality shows operating outside the WGA contract.

“Reality is a misnomer,” said Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the WGA, West. “It’s really a euphemism for nonunion television. … We think networks should be embarrassed to put on shows where people who create them are treated in violation of California labor laws” and receive no benefits or overtime. Read the rest of this story here.

Related link:

  • Life on the picket lines — a striking writer reports by Ellen Sandler, November 16, 2007