More of our best of the decade coverage, which started on Tuesday. You can read the other posts at the link above. We finish up the series by talking about some of the news events that defined the decade, and how TV covered them.
It seems odd to call the news events of the 00's a "best" list. As we started the 21st century, America seemed to have a different tragedy happening at every twist and turn. There was the Year 2000 bug followed by 9/11 followed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan followed by Hurricane Katrina followed by the worst recession since the Great Depression. We've also had various celebrity deaths recently including the iconic and controversial Michael Jackson.
The tragedies of the decade were accompanied by revolutionary change. America elected its first African-American President. New forms of media such as social networking arose like a phoenix from the ashes of the old media.
The decade was filled with many ups and downs, possibly more downs. The full repercussions of the events won't likely be acknowledged or analyzed for years or decades to come. Wherever we end up, it will have been one hell of a ride.
The months long Writers Guild of America strike that began November 1 of 2007 touched off a storm from which Hollywood still hasn't recovered. It slowed not only the production of new TV shows but the purchase and development of fresh material. The jury is still out on whether the settlement agreement that ended it all accomplish much for writers -- or merely set-up another strike in 2011.
Reports say, during the work stoppage, a group of top-shelf TV creators decided to step out of the traditional production model and develop material just for the web.
Guild members voted 78% in favor of the new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), despite calls by hard-line union members who urged actors to vote "no" and force continued negotiations.
It's clear that two huge factors in the SAG approval were general labor strife fatigue and the struggling economy.
Apparently, though, the union has had a change of heart. The Tonight Show's outgoing host has been called to testify to the union's trial committee on charges that he violated the terms of the strike by writing for himself. Both Leno and NBC claim that there was language in the strike terms that said performers could write for themselves, even if they were guild members like Leno. The union, however, disagrees.
Everybody's been boo-hooing the ongoing decline in the ratings of the broadcast networks for years now. Each year their numbers erode and the news outlets go crazy trying to figure out what's going on. But there's been a quieter story building during that same timespan, and it really came to the forefront this year. While the major broadcast networks have seen a drop in viewers, the cable networks have been busting ratings records all year, culminating with USA not only having the best year of any cable channel in 2008, but having the best year in the history of cable television.
But what does that mean for television, in general? Is it just the continuing evolution of a drastically changing medium? Considering the state of the economy and its impact on the networks, it's definitely worth noting that someone on the airwaves is apparently doing something right, and it's these cable channels. Ironically, many of those same success stories in cable are sister stations to the broadcast networks, even going so far as to lend them shows during that pesky writer's strike. But how can it be that while the Big Four are going down, the cable networks are on the rise?
Currently, SAG is working under a contract that expired on June 30. The WGA strike began on November 5, 2007 and was finally settled on February 12, 2008. Rosenberg and SAG knew how damaging the strike had been, and in the months before June 30, they tried for a settlement. They didn't get it done then, and they've been treading water ever since.
It's been over two months since the WGA Strike officially ended. While most people probably assume that everything is back to normal, especially since most shows have returned with new episodes over the past few weeks, there's an interesting article over at the LA Times explaining why things aren't so great in Hollywood. Especially for TV crew members.
While the country itself seems to be spinning into a recession as necessities such as gas, milk, and eggs jump in price, many below-the-line TV crew workers (propmasters, make-up artists, electricians, and set carpenters, etc.) are experiencing their own economic crisis.
(S12E04) The South Park guys are going after the Writer's Guild of America, and it's about time.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not members of any of the unions, and they negotiated Internet profit-sharing before it became an issue for the WGA. They have also remained consistent with their dislike of the Hollywood creative elite (including actors and writers, although they are both) and their willingness to take a different viewpoint than the popular media.
Hear that sound -- a nearly inaudible rumbling coming over the horizon? Everyday it is getting louder and louder. Soon, the stampede that is the return of scripted series back from the depths of the WGA strike will overrun our televisions and computer screens, bringing overwhelming joy to our lives.
Okay, that statement may be a little flowery, but the sentiment is still there. After a very long dry period a good many of our favorite comedies and dramas are returning to the television landscape. We've had a taste of it these last few weeks with the return of shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Dirt, The Riches and Smallville. That was just a preview of what is to come. Over the next few weeks we will see the return of The Office, Scrubs, Ugly Betty, all of the CSIs, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost, among others.
On a night when Seth MacFarlane's mother is willing to come onstage and in exchange for her son paying off one of her credit cards, she'll say, "Suck my dick, Carnegie Hall," you know anything is possible.
Last night MacFarlane and Alex Borstein (she voices Lois on Family Guy) played to a sold out room at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium. While their benefit show for the Writer's Guild of America East and the Actors Fund might have seemed out of place in the house that music from the likes of Beethoven and Bach helped to build, the two comedians wasted no time in making the whole room feel like a filthy dive bar. Obscene. Insulting. Vulgar. Enjoyable.
Right from the start it was no holds barred, as Borstein introduced herself and the theme for the evening: pretend you're on the subway and you just picked up "some retard's iPod."
Yesterday we talked about how the WGA and studios were going to enter informal talks today, and it looks like those talks have actually made some news.
The WGA announced just a short time ago that they have dropped one of their main demands, that reality and animation writers be unionized. The union members say that they are going to try other ways to organize writers that work on animation shows and reality shows.
Following in the footsteps of the recent Colbert Report and 30 Rock shows at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre in NYC, Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane along with Alex Borstein (she voices Lois) are putting on a benefit show for the WGA East at Carnegie Hall on January 31st. Janeane Garofalo and Patti LuPone will be making special appearances.
I saw an ad for the show in the newspaper this morning and checked out the Carnegie Hall website the second I got into work. Looks like the show is supposed to feature a night of "music and comedy." Sounds great! The idea of hearing McFarlane spout jokes in the voices of Peter, Stewie, Brian, or Quagmire in a live show is pretty cool if you think about. Plus, it's even funnier if you consider all the cultured events that have been hosted at Carnegie Hall over the years. Orchestras. Theater. Opera. And now Peter Griffin saying "penis" and giggling.
Ahem, let's get started, shall we? First of all, the team really did follow through with
Today, on TV Squad Daily:
- Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel will guest on each other's shows this week, and the WGA is threatening disciplinary action against Leno for writing his own jokes and performing a monologue.
- Dr. Phil isn't helping anything. (Update: later in the day today, Dr. Phil canceled the Britney Spears episode of his show for tomorrow...)
- It's looking more and more like you won't be seeing the the Golden Globes on TV this year.
Today, on TV Squad Daily:
- Heidi Klum is in a legal fight over clovers.
- Unbelievable news about Jessica Simpson and Lane Garrison!
- Next week, late night talk shows will return, despite the strike.
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