Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The day that TV died

You know, I actually woke up in a pretty good mood today. Having moved to a four-day (but still 40-hour) work week back in September or so, Mondays have turned into a perfectly pleasant day of the week, and returning to work on Tuesday morning just doesn't seem like much of a drag at all.

And then I wake up and see this. I probably should have seen it coming, but I confess I didn't. The Writers' Guild of America strike, which has managed to linger a lot longer now than I'd ever imagined it would, has killed television.

And if you watch TV like I do, meaning avoiding reality TV the way a vegetarian does hamburgers, that's not an even slight overstatement. The studios, none too quietly, have stocked up on reality fare (on CBS alone that means at least these three new "winners": "The Secret Talents of Stars," "Game Show in My Head" and "America's Top Dog" (and, as much I love cute dogs, any chance that I'd tune in for even a minute of that one was killed by what happened Monday, which I will actually get to very quickly, I promise.)

To pave the way for this onslaught, all the big studios, almost simultaneously, started Friday and continued in a big way Monday to slash their overall deals with writers. All told (and still counting, for sure), ABC Studios, Warner Bros. TV, CBS Paramount Network TV, Universal Media Studios and 20th Century Fox TV have cut nearly 75 "overalls" (which apparently aren't just something you wear on a farm.)

It wouldn't be as much of a big deal if it didn't hit shows that I've grown to love hard. It virtually guarantees the death of two CW shows that had just made my Monday nights (especially with the rather slow-to-even-get-started second season of "Heroes.") Terminated Monday were both David Guarascio and Moses Port, co-creators of the very funny and getting even better "Aliens in America." And two of the major writers for "Everybody Hates Chris," Aron Abrams and Greg Thompson, also got the ax Monday (and in a move that spells the certain death of two frosh shows I didn't bother to tune in for, the creators of Fox's "K-Ville" and NBC's "Journeyman" are also now looking for employment.)

It's hard not to be extremely pessimistic about this, because the only logical next move (unless this drives the two sides to come to an agreement) is that showrunners will be the next to go. I've had enough trouble dealing, for example, with "The Office" being shut down since mid-fall, but the day is clearly coming when creator (of the American version, I realize) Greg Daniels and his crew could be shown the door, along with the creators of almost any show you can name. Sheesh.

Besides, it's not like the audience for non-reality (a k a actually entertaining) TV isn't out there. Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" drew about 18.3 million viewers Sunday night, for a 7.6 share and the biggest TV debut of the year so far (which, given the circumstances, is clearly a dubious honor at best.)

If Monday really was the day TV died, there is at least an extremely selfish silver lining in it for me in that my call for movies to replenish my Netflix queue garnered a total of 66 movies that I either had somehow not seen or longed to see again, and as a gesture of gratitude I do indeed intend to watch them all. That starts with two suggestions from always-welcome reader Ashok (who compiles a very readable list of his movie reviews here): "Man on the Train," a Patrice Leconte flick starring the singer Johnny Hallyday (who clearly, like almost every man on the planet, just wants to be Serge Gainsbourg), and then the documentary "51 Birch Street."

It turned out to be a far bigger outpouring than I had expected, so a hearty huzzah and thanks to all who participated (and please, as you find more movies you love, don't hesitate to share them with me.)

And, just to show that, despite all this bile, my mood isn't completely dark, here's a pic of Disney's next big princess, who will be played by "Dreamgirl" Anika Noni Rose. Even if they couldn't look any further than Randy Newman for most of the songs, a grand Disney animated musical, starring its first black princess and set in New Orleans, can only be a good thing (I hope.) Peace out.

12 comments:

Bob said...

That's some terrible news. I was starting to feel like TV would be okay. After "Psych" just started up again and I love that show and we've still got new "Friday Night Lights" for a few weeks. This is awful though what these networks are doing. I really like "Journeyman" but what worries me more is that this will be the end of "Chuck" which is a show I've grown to absolutely love.
If, as you seem to think, they're going after the more established shows next then it really will be the day TV died. The one that I worry about the most is "Scrubs." As we all know this is the final season and if this thing doesn't get resolved soon we'll never get a real finale. I think a show that's been on for seven years ought to get some closure.
I wish I could come up with something more articulate, but having just rolled out of bed before 8 AM all I can say is, this sucks.

* (asterisk) said...

I remember really liking L'Homme du Train when I saw it, but I am afraid I don't remember much about it now.

Reel Fanatic said...

It definitely does, Bob .. I would hope that "Scrubs" would at least be given some closure, especially since the episodes from this latest season that actually managed to make it to air were as good as ever ... The only possibly silver lining I see in any of this is that maybe some potentially great writers who would have gone unnoticed will step up if this ever gets resolved

Mercurie said...

I have to admit that I was a bit shocked when I read the news. And like you I am a bit worried about some of my favourite shows. I do think television will recover, as it did after the '88 strike. The only problem is that in the meantime some of the good shows on the air will probably end production, while the airwaves will be filled with my least favourite format--reality shows...

Movie Reviews Collection said...

Nice Review and keep on posting interesting review on your blog.

Divinity said...

Thank God Mad Men runs its season in the summer...

Reel Fanatic said...

Amen to that, Divinity ... Did you see that "Mad Men" cleaned up at the Golden Globes "press conference" Sunday night? That was fantastic news in an otherwise bleak landscape

Divinity said...

Yeah, I was really pleased about them winning in the categories they had noms in. Tuned in just in time for the announcements. I was worried that not enough people were watching it. Next year, they should take home awards for January Jones or Christina Hendricks (Supporting), Elizabeth Moss (Actress) and Vincent Kartheiser (Supporting). But I'm greedy that way...

Ashok said...

I would be eagerly expecting your comments on both the movies :-). And one more suggestion "The Barbarian Invasions", a French Canadian film who might have watched. I hope you have also watched "The Salton Sea", another film I loved.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah .. two more recommendations that I've somehow missed, but will be added to the Netflix list right now (bringing the total to 68 movies I should have seen but haven't yet .. Thanks, Ashok!

* (asterisk) said...

If you're looking for something a bit insane, RF, try "Sheitan" (aka "Satan") with Vincent Cassell. And of course, you can always go check out my reviews.
;-)

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Mr. * ... I love Vincent Cassell, so I'm indeed gonna see if I can track that one down too .. From looking at your list, I've seen most of the movies you list as your favorites, and not surprisingly, agree with most of your picks, but I swiped a few viewing ideas from that too