Often times, union agreements baffle me, but the ongoing news on the writers’ strike nearly takes the cake. While David Letterman’s production company has reached an interim agreement to bring writers back to his show, Jay Leno’s production is run by NBC, which has no such agreement in place.
Apparently, Leno is a member of the WGA in addition to whatever union he may be a part of as an on-screen performer. Apparently in preparing to film his show without the usual writers, he had the audacity to write material for himself rather than just making things up as he goes along, and the WGA is up in arms over this. If he weren’t a WGA member, would he be shunned as a scab? Should he just go out there like an idiot rather than writing jokes for himself? And what constitutes “writing”? Does it have to be on paper or print? What if he writes on his hand? What if he makes something funny up in his head, memorizes and delivers it without ever “writing” it?
The WGA seems to be running in fear from a very simple fact – they are not needed – their members are in a market of skilled workers capable of being paid in a meritocracy. Sure, there are members who would be paid less under a market-driven system, but this sorts itself out. With the escalating costs of actors and special effects, talented writers are a small piece of the overall cost and thus good writers should be relatively well paid. Bad writers (such as those involved in any plot line on “24” that involved Kim Bauer, especially also involving a mountain lion) shouldn’t be propped up by a contract. They should find new careers.
I truly hope that the rampant predictions of this strike and the impending actors’ strike leading to new models for TV-like entertainment production, but I am skeptical. Watching TV is a passive activity, and most of America seems to watch whatever garbage is shoveled their way. Many people don’t want to find what entertainment may be appealing to them – they are happy to be told what else to watch while snoozing through the glorified coin toss known as “Deal or No Deal”.