Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #178: State of the Union... So To Speak...

The WGA is on the warpath, kicking ass and taking names where-ever they go, and you will know them by the trails of the dead!

Okay, maybe not, but they are mad as hell and they are not taking it anymore.

First the put Tyler Perry on their shit list, over his treatment of the writers behind his sitcom House of Payne, and now it's Fox's turn. The Writer's Guild of America is mad at Fox for trying to pay writers less than the guild approved minimum in salary and benefits for working on Ozzy Osbourne's upcoming variety show and have banned members from working on the show. Fox claims that the show is only "half-scripted" but the WGA says that even though people can only understand half of what Ozzy says, they still have to pay the scribbler full salary.

Once again we have a show shooting itself in the foot before the camera's even roll.

By openly antagonizing the WGA with their vain attempt at penny pinching, Fox has pretty ensured that any writers they get willing to work for that show would be either has-beens, who can't find work anywhere else anymore, and never-wills who don't know enough to realize that the job could be a black mark against them finding work on other shows, because most of which have WGA members as show-runners.

Any variety show, no matter how charismatic and talented the star needs good writers in order to work, and when you have a star like Ozzy Osbourne, who is about 5 years past his sell by date, you need really great writers.

And I'm not saying that there are great, inexperienced writers out there, I'm sure there are, but if the contract is really as bad as the WGA claims they aren't going to stay for very long if they really are great enough to be poached by other shows. And trust me, their agents will be looking for a better deal, they always are, that's their purpose in life.

And even if you do get a group of hot unknowns to sit at the writer's table, you're going to need an experienced, intelligent, and imaginative person to sit at the head of that table. Someone who can put together sketches, skits, segues, and stand-up bits into a cogent and cohesive whole.

That kind of ability is hard to find, even harder when your offer is bad enough to get the WGA mad enough to put the show on the shit list, a status that might spread to other unions, and that could harm the show's ability to hire crew, land decent guests, and project the sort of quality to win viewers, who have been jaded against variety television for three decades.

Now I can be ambivalent towards unions. I know they can do good, but they can also be meddlesome, and create more problems, even for their own members by not picking their battles. Plus I was raised on tales of my grandfather, who was fired from the coal mines and the union, which he had been a member since childhood, didn't even give him the steam off their piss to help and his over twelve children, for petty personal reasons on the part of the union leadership.

I can understand the networks not wanting unions getting involved in their production, but what I can't understand is why they keep trying to prove the unions right. Stunts like this are penny wise, but pound foolish, since it will most likely cost them the success of a show that they are no doubt spending millions on, in order to save a few thousand per episode.

If you don't want unions getting in your face, you don't give them any excuse to, it's that simple. Quit trying to cheat pennies out of the little people to pay for pedicures and shiatsu massages, and keep your eye on the big picture, which is making a show with the intent to be successful.

Anything else is just stupid.

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