The Theory of Chaos

Saturday, December 15, 2007

All hail Worldwide Pants

This is genius. In the e-mail exchanges I've been reading from the Guild, there's been a lot of general grumbling about the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. This is the umbrella group that negotiates on behalf of the studios and production companies, allowing them to strike one blanket deal that covers all the major players in town. In a reasonable age that's a fine idea; it saves a hell of a lot of paperwork, and you don't have to keep track of some number jungle that changes depending on who you're writing for.

But the downside is that all the major players must agree unanimously, unlike the Guild, which only needs a majority vote. So the most stubborn and greedy studio in town can hold up the deal for everyone. And when your lead negotiator is a high-handed egomaniac like AMPTP's Nick Counter, who will happily lose more money for the studios than the writers are asking for if it means "winning", one stubborn personality can grind the whole town to a halt.

But you know what? There's no law that says we HAVE to strike our deal with the AMPTP. If they want to slap ultimatums on tables, storm out of rooms, and hire $100,000-a-month PR experts to put a silk hat on it, they can knock themselves out. We're perfectly within our rights to negotiate deals with individual companies, and see how many others like sitting around twiddling their thumbs while the competition is churning out new content.

And no sooner did we announce this strategy than we had our first nibble. David Letterman owns his own show, as well as that of his follow-up
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He's also a WGA member. I doubt he and his head writer see anything absurd about our demands. And I bet you they'd love nothing else than to get back to work. And any Letterman fan knows that he doesn't mind speaking his mind about his home network - so if he wants to bash CBS and Viacom every night for not making a deal, they'll have to let him, because he'll be the only guy giving them new episodes.

Letterman was given elder statesman honors, like Carson was for the strike in the 80's. Most of the other late-night hosts (save confirmed asshat Carson Daly) wouldn't consider going on until he'd made up his mind. And if Letterman's back on the air, do you think Leno's going to like sitting at home? NBC is about to announce that he and Conan will be going back on the air in January. But without an agreement, they'll be going on without their writers. How long will they put up with that?

I'm not doing any victory dances, people, but this was one hell of a thrust. The indispensable Nikki Finke, as usual, is
right on top of it.


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