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November 06, 2007

We Don't Need No Stinking Writers

It's been a while since my last update. Regular readers can probably guess why. The looming conflict between Hollywood studios and the Writers' Guild of America has put me in a state of emotional turmoil. In the past, I've stated that TV is the only thing that makes life worth living. And now, despite my most earnest prayers AND sacrificial blood offerings, all of the TV writers have gone on strike. As a result, all of my favorite late night comedy shows have shut down, while all the prime-time dramas and comedies continue production... but only until they run out of scripts. Once that happens, all of TV will be a post-apocalyptic wasteland of reruns and hastily assembled reality shows. Also, I think there could be rampaging mutants.

I'm not altogether sure why the Writers Guild called a strike. I think it has something to do with writers insisting that they "get paid" for their work, particularly in regard to DVD sales and internet distribution. Myself... I just don't see what their problem is. This "internet" thing is clearly a fad, and DVDs are just a stop-gap measure until everyone goes back to sweet, sweet VHS.

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Clearly these writers haven't read all those really clever arguments that explain why writers -- and artists in general -- should work for free. True, those clever arguments are almost exclusively offered by lawyers and academics (who get paid quite nicely for *their* labor). But this is irrelevant. The main point is that Culture is supposed to be Free. Not Free as in speech; not even Free as in 100% syphilis-free. No, my friends, Culture should be Free as in Beer. Although, as of posting this, beer still isn't free. You still have to pay for it. But I assume that the Free Culture Movement is working on some way I can download Guinness online, via a peer-to-beer file sharing network.

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As a society, our only hope is that the sooper-geniuses who run television networks can figure out SOME way of keeping quality TV alive while this writers strike' works itself out. In the spirit of Free Beer Culture, I've come up with a few ideas. I humbly offer them for no charge!

Improvisation: This one is SO OBVIOUS, it hardly seems worth bringing up. If you don't have anyone writing scripts, just get actors to make shit up! I realize that this will work better for some shows than for others. Plot-heavy programs like Heroes and Prison Break could go completely off the rails if the actors were forced to improvise. Imagine, for a moment, that you were an actor on FOX's Prison Break -- and the director told you to improv your dialogue. If it were me, I'd be like "Dood, this prison sucks crap -- I'm totally breaking out of this bitch!" Then I'd walk off camera, which would be problematic since we'd still have about 45 minutes of show to fill. However, there are a number of shows where actors could easily BS their way through. The cast of How I Met Your Mother doesn't need scripts. All they need to do is be really annoying while not at all funny every time someone yells "ACTION!" How hard is that?

Recycling: NBC has been big into promoting environmental issues in the last few weeks. Why not put their Intellectual Property where their mouth is by recycling previously used scripts from some of their longer running series? The show ER has been on TV for what, 250 years? Just grab a script from one of the early seasons, and reshoot it with your current cast. There might be some continuity issues -- dead characters coming back to life and whatnot -- but viewers are quite forgiving about these things. Also, consider a show like Law and Order. Every episode is exactly the same -- so much so that I suspect they were ALREADY reusing old scripts before the writers walked.

Scabs: If they want to get those lazy TV writers back on the job, studios would be smart to hire non-union labor. Americans might change their tune on the issue of illegal immigration if the networks hire cheap mexican screenwriters to take over our nation's most popular shows. Personally, I've always felt that American TV had a lot to learn from Spanish language networks like Telemundo. For instance: how to dress up a fat guy like a school girl for MAXIMUM HILARITY. Also how to improve any scene through the inclusion of skanky girls, gratuitous cleavage and lingering booty shots. Or maybe studios should take a cue from the IT industry and outsource all the scriptwriting to India. I know I'd enjoy seeing a Bollywood style dance number break out in the middle of an episode of CSI: Miami!

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Ugh. Who am I trying to kid. This strike is a catastrophe. Really, the only solution is to collapse into an alcohol induced stupor until it's over. All I ask is that is nobody schedule my intervention until AFTER the writers are back at work.

Posted by Joey at November 6, 2007 07:41 AM

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