Sunday, January 6, 2008

Weekend Assignment: Missing Words

I started my blogging journey at AOL Journals. The inimitable John Scalzi used to give us Weekend Assignments at his blog By the Way. Now, Scalzi and AOL have parted ways, but the Weekend Assignments live on at Outpost Mavarin.

This week's assignment...
Weekend Assignment #197: Now that the WGA strike has had lots of time to affect the prime time television schedules, how is it affecting you as a viewer? What show do you miss most, aside from reruns? Do you miss your weekly appointment with that ill-behaved doctor, or your visits to Wisteria Lane? Does it bother you not to laugh at fresh jokes on your favorite sitcom? Or are you just as happy watching reality shows, or new episodes of shows that have been held back until now? We want to know!

Extra Credit: how are you spending the time instead?
I don't watch a lot of network prime-time television because of my work schedule, but I would hate the glut of reality shows, game shows, and pseudo-news shows. What was really killing me was not being able to watch new episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Both shows are back on now without writers. I don't know how that's working out for them; I haven't been watching. My favorite shows, Battlestar Galactica and Lost have had their season premieres delayed, but Lost will start airing the episodes they've got in the can on January 31.

I've got a lot of sympathy for the writers. The media companies are on shaky ground. They're pleading web ignorance. They just don't think there is any money to be made on the web, and they certainly couldn't figure out an appropriate formula to compensate the writers for any of their work that happens to go out on the web. It's all BS.

In a previous post, I talked about the effects of the strike on Battlestar Galactica. There was a long quote from showrunner Ron Moore. It bears repeating...
"Fundamentally this is about the internet, and this is about whether writers get paid for material that is made for the internet or if they're paid for material that is broadcast on the internet that was developed for TV or movies." Moore shared a story to illustrate the scenario, saying "I had a situation last year on Battlestar Galactica where we were asked by Universal to do webisodes [Note: Moore is referring to The Resistance webisodes which ran before Season 3 premiered], which at that point were very new and 'Oooh, webisodes! What does that mean?' It was all very new stuff. And it was very eye opening, because the studio's position was 'Oh, we're not going to pay anybody to do this. You have to do this, because you work on the show. And we're not going to pay you to write it. We're not going to pay the director, and we're not going to pay the actors.' At which point we said 'No thanks, we won't do it.'"

"We got in this long, protracted thing and eventually they agreed to pay everybody involved. But then, as we got deeper into it, they said 'But we're not going to put any credits on it. You're not going to be credited for this work. And we can use it later, in any fashion that we want.' At which point I said 'Well, then we're done and I'm not going to deliver the webisodes to you.' And they came and they took them out of the editing room anyway -- which they have every right to do. They own the material -- But it was that experience that really showed me that that's what this is all about. If there's not an agreement with the studios about the internet, that specifically says 'This is covered material, you have to pay us a formula - whatever that formula turns out to be - for use of the material and how it's all done,' the studios will simply rape and pillage."
The future of entertainment is the merger of the traditional forms with the Internet. As their delivery systems improve, more people are going to go to the Internet to watch what they want when they want. That's where the money is, and that's the golden goose the media conglomerates are trying to protect. I don't think I'm going to watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report until their writers come back.

Previous posts on the strike:

Battlestar Galactica and the Writers Strike
The Colbert Report Writers' Video
A Daily Show Fix of Sorts

Extra Credit: I'm going to spend the free time the way I spend most of my free time: more time on the Internet.

Now playing: Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit
via FoxyTunes

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