On Monday, the Writers Guild of America overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike that would have a major effect on many of your favorite TV shows. Of the 6,310 members to cast a vote, 96.3% were in favor of a walk-out — that’s 6% more than the last WGA strike, in 2007-2008, which lasted 100 days. “We thank you for your resolve and your faith in us as your representatives,” the union wrote in an email. “We are determined to achieve a fair contract.”
The dispute between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is over health care and compensation. There are more television shows than ever, but writers are still paid per episode. That worked when there were 22-24 episodes a season, but it doesn’t anymore, now that many series are only 10-13 episodes long. “While taking more time to produce an episode can make for better TV,” the Washington Post reports, “writers argue they are losing out on pay — especially with exclusivity deals that make it hard for writers to get work on other shows to make up the difference, and more series overall that are less likely to go into syndication.”
The current deal expires on May 1. If the two sides don’t reach an agreement by May 2, “writing for television, feature films, and digital series will cease,” the WGA threatened. The AMPTP is hoping to reach a deal with the WGA at the “bargaining table” to prevent a work stoppage, but no one’s optimistic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “As of about two weeks ago, the parties were $350 million apart, with the writers looking for a $535 million deal and the studios more inclined to reach an agreement valued in the neighborhood of $180 million… Sources tell THR that since then there has been some movement on both sides, but observers find it difficult to see how a multi-hundred million dollar gap will be bridged prior to contract expiration.”
Which shows would be most hurt by the strike? Say goodbye to “Carpool Karaoke” and “Ew!” (which is, presumably, written by a human being), because late-night television — including The Tonight Show, The Late Show, and The Late Late Show — is expected, along with soap operas, to suffer the most. Expect a lot of reruns. SNL‘s season would also be cut short, depriving the world of Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer and The Rock hosting the season finale, while Comedy Central’s The President Show will end just as soon as it began.
As for scripted programming: mega-hits The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and Jessica Jones are supposed to start filming in May; a strike would prevent that. It would also affect CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery, which is only midway through production (I’m beginning to think this show isn’t real), ABC’s The Inhumans, and The Mindy Project. (Thankfully, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black, and Twin Peaks, among other highly-anticipated series, are finished and ready to go.) That’s just the start, though. As Vanity Fair notes, “Network shows tend to return to production in July, so if the strike lasts long enough, delays could follow for a whole lot more series.”
It’s going to be a fascinating couple of days.