In the 2006-2007 television season, 35 percent of the writers of broadcast network, prime-time programs were women, according to an annual study by San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. In the 2010-2011 season, that number had dropped by more than half, to 15 percent. What happened?
Since the latest edition of the annual SDSU study came out two weeks ago, I've posed that question to a dozen experienced television writers and creators, female and male alike. Most of these professionals, who've worked on everything from 'Battlestar Galactica' to 'Sons of Anarchy' to 'Pushing Daisies' to 'Chuck,' were alarmed by the numbers that the Center released.
For some, it confirmed their worst fears. "The situation is getting worse," said one veteran woman writer. "In the '90s, the networks cared more. They don't anymore." For others, it made them re-evaluate gains they thought women had made. "I had certainly perceived the situation as getting better and better for women -- I am rarely the only woman in the writers' room anymore, and I encounter more women at the higher levels," said Jane Espenson ('Once Upon a Time,' 'Torchwood,' 'Buffy,' 'Battlestar Galactica'). "I remember what it was like 20 years ago, and this is not that."
Could season 4 be the final one for 'Mad Men'? Which hit sitcom is on its way to Hawaii? There was lots of TV scoop (and more than a few laughs) found at the 2010 Writers Guild of America Awards, which were handed out to television, film and video game writers on Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Century City, California.
The evening kicked off with a promise from host Seth MacFarlane ('Family Guy') to do the best "Tom Bergeron, Jeff Probst, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacrest and Howie Mandel" job he could do, a reference to the five reality show hosts' critically panned performance at the 60th Annual Prime Time Emmys.
The actual award is called the Paddy Chayevsky Laurel award for television, and Larry has most definitely earned the recognition. Seinfeld remains a masterpiece of character and comedy with or without a plot. The very nothingness of Seinfeld made it historic television. It was a show that NBC nearly canceled because the suits didn't get it (what a shock!), then went on to become America's favorite half-hour. Twenty years later, Seinfeld is embedded in the psyche of pop culture. Not bad for a nothing kind of show.
For instance, in the comedy category, can you really put Modern Family in and completely diss The Big Bang Theory? I can't. I'm not even happy about the annual goopfest for 30 Rock, a sitcom that I've grown tired of -- but that's just me. I'd prefer How I Met Your Mother to get some time, or United States of Tara or Nurse Jackie or The Middle. All four of those show have been superior to 30 Rock -- to me.
Ben Silverman has made some significant contributions to the Peacock Network, most notably with the smash cult hit The Office, a show that wouldn't have even had a second season if people like Silverman weren't willing to give it a chance to grow.
Overall, however, NBC is in the dumper. And this is from a network that used to dominate free TV in almost every single category, from comedies to dramas to the newly mutated drama-comedies or dramadies. These days, "comas" is a more appropriate term.
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.
The SAG's latest tactical move against the money grubbing networks is to oust their own negotiators.
If this were a military theater, we would be calling this a case of "friendly fire."
Those Norma Rae days are long gone. Now the only strikes we hear about are ones like the latest looming threat of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild, according to Reuters.
It's not that I don't feel sorry for SAG members or that I'm against their plight. Just about every industry in America has greedy CEOs who take as much as they can from as many as they can, all under the guise of performance and production bonuses earned by not running the company into Hell. It just feels like it could not have come at a worse time.
Did the success of The Simpson's Movie really re-energize the show's creative team that much? It's been years since I watched The Simpsons regularly, or even quoted the show in conversation with my friends. I figured its best days were behind it, but maybe I was wrong. The few eps I caught last season were pretty hit-and-miss. I wasn't too impressed with the Departed spoof, "The Debarted," but I really dug watching Homer invent grunge music in "That '90s Show." Were all the following eps as good as that one?
The WGA also nominated four episodes of The Simpsons in the category of best animation broadcast. Needless to say, I'll probably be tuning in when the series returns with fresh eps next year. Click through for a list of more WGA TV nominees.
Ah, product placement. It's a subject that's come up before. We have an award for it, and even as far back as those care free days of 2005, Karina was writing about the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild Of America protesting it. The telling quote from that piece, "Our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter, but to disguise this as storytelling." And isn't that where most of us have always drawn the line in the sand? The placing of products into sets was kind of an understood cost of doing business, but having the writers change scripts to incorporate them was a whole other ball of (Turtle) wax. Unfortunately, those (Foster Farms) chickens have come home to roost.
They're calling it the Truth Tour and it begins with a Wednesday morning press conference in front of WGA headquarters following by a set of fake auditions at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, where auditions are held for the actual American Idol. They call it "the version they don't want you to see".
While the strike is ended per union leaders, writers won't return to work until the membership itself has had a chance to vote on the new deal. They are expected to vote "yes" on Tuesday and be back to work by Wednesday. The timing of this resolution means that some of this season can yet be salvaged and there's still time for pilot production for new series next year. For details on how this will affect your favorite shows, Keep up to date with Mike Ausiello's nearly comprehensive list of when your shows will return. And now things can get back to normal, and we can all go back to needlessly hating on According to Jim, the way God intended.
This year's awards season, barely a month old now, has not been a good one for Hollywood. First, the Golden Globes ceremony was reduced to an Access Hollywood special after members of the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild boycotted the show. Now, it looks like the Grammy Awards ceremony may also be in trouble.
It is being reported that the striking guild will probably bar its members from working on the February 10th Grammys telecast. Grammy organizers have yet to ask for a waiver allowing for writers to work on the show. However, according to a WGA spokesperson, a waiver grant would be unlikely. There is no word if the WGA will picket the ceremony. If it does, then SAG members will not cross the picket line. This potentially means another exciting 1-hour infotainment special.
I'm sure members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are sweating a bit now.
As the strike lingers on and the Writers Guild of American (WGA) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) seem no closer to bridging their philosophical and monetary gap, the WGA is set to try a new tactic. According to Variety, the WGA is going to make a "legal demand" today for individual members of the AMPTP to schedule bargaining meetings with the WGA. However, at this point it isn't clear if the companies are legally obligated to do so, and if not, will they?
- The WGA-East declares that "Ellen DeGeneres Not Welcome in NY."
- Lost's co-creator Damon Lindelof announces, "Television is dying" in the New York Times.
- Some soap writers are crossing the picket line to resume work.
- Today (Tuesday) was dubbed "Picketing with the Stars" as 100 actors from 30 TV shows joined the picket line at Universal Studios in a show of solidarity.
- Seventeen entertainment blogs went dark for a day in support of the writer's strike.
- Peter Chernin (president of Fox's parent company, News Corp) bragged that the strike is "probably a positive" for the company as it will most likely save them money.
- CBS News is preparing for a possible strike by 500 of their news writers.
- The Simpson's Mr. Burns tells striking writers they can't have the internet: "It's Mine!"
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