Monday, December 03, 2007

How the Grinch Stole Television - The AMPTP is way into slogans


With any luck, by the time this column has reached your pretty, overworked little eyeballs Oh Reader from the Future, the writers' strike of '07 will be a thing of the past, a relic from another time like the Dead Sea Scrolls or Larry King. Sure, this might upset some people who have this crazy obsession with being "timely" but pshaw, look on the bright side, man. This pretty much makes you like Indiana Jones of the Information Superhighway, except you've got softer hands and aren't able to pull off the khaki fedora without looking like a major tool. But that's what locked doors are for. Am I right, friend?

Sadly, it's more likely that a discussion of the writers' strike will still be all too timely. Tonight will be another night without stars—well not fresh stars anyway, all the late night shows are still in reruns—and who wants to live in a world where nighttime has the same stars night in and night out. Can you imagine if we had to keep using the same stars every night? I'm talking about the real kind now. That just doesn't sound sanitary. Used stars. Puts one in the mind of Courtney Love. Where's my Purell?

In case you've been trying really hard to be out of it and you've made a remarkable success out of that endeavor, let me fill you in on what's going down. Once upon a time, the networks were like, "Hey, writers, can you like make the stuff we plan on getting filthy rich off of?" And the writers are all, "Sure, Rupert & Sumner and co., can you float me some cash for it though cause like Macs and neurosis ain't cheap." And the networks were all like, "Yeah here's a percentage for every time we make money off your stuff. Let's call it a residual." For a long time peace reigned. Then Al Gore came along Doc Brown style and was like, "Ta Dah. Internet."

As with all new-fangled technologies, the media conglomerates approached the new Bright and Shiny warily. They shook it upside down, poked sticks at it and held it up to the light—none of which is easy while holding a monocle to your eye—trying to determine which end the money came out of. Finally, they figured something out. They would put content on the Internet, full episodes of their shows—in some cases even special webisodes and the money would come from where the money always comes from—ads. The tv bigwigs were so sure of the cash cow they'd stumbled upon that they sued Internet cool kids Google and YouTube that were giving people the means to watch what the nets produced without paying them for it. Why does that sound familiar? Here's where things get curious. The writers were like "Internet residuals? Yes, please." And the TV studios said, "It's mine, mine, all mine." And it was hard to have a logical conversation with them because they kept diving into their sea of gold coins and spitting pearls any time the writers would try to get a word in. Really rather rude. Thus began The Great Writers' Strike of '07.

Until last week, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) had remained smugly mum. It was as if the writers were petulant precocious children whose ridiculous strike and media blitz they weren't going to dignify with a response. However with public opinion falling majorly on the side of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), thanks to clever internet campaigns waged by sites like unitedhollywood.com and the backing of celebrities, the AMPTP decided to put up their dukes. Their attempts at diminishing the WGA have only made them look at worst like arrogant, condescending purveyors of corporate greed and at best like the uptight and hopelessly out of touch bespectacled PC guy of the popular Mac vs. PC commercials. And file this under creepy: in an Orwellian move the AMPTP actually gave their most recent offer for the WGA a name. Yes, boys and girls, step right up and get a gander at The New Economic Partnership. What will they come up with next, "Shock and Underwhelm"?