Writer’s Revolt

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 5, 2007

Filed under: Rants 75 comments

I see that Hollywood Writers – a term somewhat akin to Nebraskan Surfers – are apparently going on strike. Cue dramatic music. I hope they do, and I hope it lasts. I want to see if we can tell the difference. The folks who haven’t had an original idea in years are threatening to stop writing? How would we know? (Since they have elected to no longer write, it would be funny if they picketed with blank signs.)

Maybe this is just an excuse to get some time off so they can take part in NaNoWriMo. You can’t deny they need the practice.

A couple of years ago we rented Firefly through Netflix, and we saw how good writing is rewarded: The show gets shown out of order in a moving timeslot and canceled mid-season. We have more sitcoms about wacky, off-beat families than we have televisions in this country, and yet somehow nobody could find room to give Firefly more than thirteen episodes? I now carry a bitter grudge against the industry in general, with a special abhorrence for all the writers who think “sci-fi” means “moody, angst-ridden romance in space”.

I don’t expect the strike to last. The writers won’t have anything to do but sit at home and watch television, and they are sure to crack after a couple of days of that torture.


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75 thoughts on “Writer’s Revolt

  1. Adam says:

    Hum… no writers union in Hollywood. That would mean that fresh new ideas can be submitted without having to pay absurd fees for the right to submit said work.

  2. Brian says:


    Be careful what you wish for, sir. The last time this happened, reality tv was created.

  3. Hal says:

    1) I feel the same way about The Dresden Files that you do about Firefly.

    2) I will miss Heroes if the writers go on strike.

  4. Thijs says:

    Or Carnivale for what matters. I have never seen Firefly or The Dresden Files, but Carnivale was the best series I have ever seen. It was also cancelled after two seasons, leaving us with an enormous cliffhanger…

  5. JT says:

    Shamus, you also have to keep in mind that many times, a script that is submitted to a studio goes through many changes at the hands of producer and director. Sometimes the “output” has NO family resemblance to the “input.” Granted, [i]Hollywood writers[/i] are used to make the changes, but they’re more rewriters than anything.

  6. C David Dent says:

    It isn’t that there aren’t any good writers in Hollywood, it is that they aren’t appreciated. They write a story and get paid a flat, one-time fee for their work, and then get nothing after that. In fact, in some cases, they don’t even get the one-time fee.

    Right now, if a screenwriter writes a show – say an episode of Battlestar Galactica – then they get paid for the parts of the episode that airs. If scenes are cut out of that episode and then bundled on a DVD as extras they do not get paid. If the characters they created are used in online “webisodes” they don’t get paid. If their episode is shown as part of a special web-distribution but unaired (“Special unaired online episode!”) they don’t get paid.

    Viewers hunger for good writing and will seek it out wherever they can find it, and good writers deserve to be compensated for their work. I’m with the writers on this one. As viewers the best support we can give is to write letters to the networks saying which shows (and therefore writers) we like and want to see continue. And once the strike is over, keep watching those shows. They are bound to be “rusty” for an episode or two as the production machine starts to accelerate once again.

  7. Phlux says:

    I keep hearing that Carnivale was really good. But I couldn’t follow it. It could be that if you saw the first couple of episodes and really paid attention that the rest of it made sense, but when I watched it it was probably halfway through the first season, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on.

    There was some sort of traveling carnival back around the turn of the century or so? And it was magical? But not really? And John Conner went back in time to flee from pursuing terminators?

  8. Chris says:

    The problems Shamus describes with Firefly and other decently written shows are due more to the suits at the network than the writers.

    The reason many Hollywood “writers” are hacks, is that they have learned to write what the studios will produce. Blaming it on the Union is not going to fix anything.

    This all boils down to money. This is all about the future. The studios managed to screw the writers back when they negotiated the percentage writers would get for VHS and DVD. Now they are trying for a repeat screwing for online material. As it is now the studios don’t want to give the writers ANY percentage of online sales. They claim they want to stay “flexible.”

  9. Shamus says:

    I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m siding with the studios. I was just egging whoever was closest, which is the writers at the moment.

    But, you know, I’m impartial here. A plague on both their houses, and so forth.

  10. Dan says:

    The last few years I’ve found the quality of tv shows much better than movies. (Rome, Carnivale, Deadwood, Firefly, BSG…) I’m not sure the TV writers should be in the same union with the screen writers.

  11. Peter says:

    Actually, I read something regarding the strike that the shows that will be hit hardest are the Daily Show and Colbert Report, because of the need to have updated, current events related material. They need writers consistently in a way scripted shows with a longer lead time don’t.

  12. Doola! says:

    Adam – what “absurd fees” do you have to pay to submit work? My understanding is that if you’re paying any fees, absurd or not, you’re doing it wrong.

  13. Clyde says:

    I felt the same way about “Wonderfalls,” which was a really quirky comedy that Fox mistreated.

    It would be nice if something new and original came out of this, because mostly, it’s the same old same old. Remakes and sequels, like “The Bionic Woman” and the upcoming “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.” Movies are just as guilty; seen the trailer for “I Am Legend” recently? It might be good, but Will Smith is no Charlton Heston…

  14. Septyn says:

    “They write a story and get paid a flat, one-time fee for their work, and then get nothing after that.”

    Um, no, they do get residuals, which is what this fight is about. They want residual rights on other media, including the stuff you cited (web broadcasts and DVDs).

    Residuals are the sweetest scam in the world, right next to licensing and “maintenance” fees. Imaging being able to work *once* and get paid every time someone uses your work. It’s like a hammersmith being paid every time someone swings one of their hammers.

    While I think the studios and related companies are nothing more than glorified pimps, I think the writers (and actors) better take a good look at the way the rest of the world works and be happy they’ve pulled off “residuals” for so long.

  15. Katy says:

    FOX is full of fail. They ruin nearly every good show that comes their way.

  16. Katy says:

    If you liked Joss Whedon’s work on Firefly, you’ll be glad to know he has another show in the works, Dollhouse.

    Entertainment Weekly Article


  17. Katy says:

    Um. It was me, the other Katy, who put up the links for Dollhouse. Do we need to disambiguate ourselves?

  18. Rebecca says:

    That’s mean, Shamus. :(

  19. Strangeite says:

    You know Shamus, for a guy that has purported
    to have not watched regular TV for over six years, saying that the writers “have not had an original idea in years” is a pretty bold statement. I understand that you were exaggerating, but the statement is really unfair to the current state of television today.

    Battlestar Gallactica, Lost, Pushing Daisies and My Name is Earl are some of the best television that has EVER been aired. The writing on each of these show is original, intelligent and thought provoking.

    I really appreciate this blog and your commentary on many different subjects, but on this topic, by your own admission, you really don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

  20. Alex says:

    Cynicism hurts me. If you believe that there’s nothing good or just being produced, the world is a sad place indeed.

    That said, I agree that guilds and unions in America seem rather draconian.

  21. Shamus says:


    That’s true, I don’t watch TV. Maybe it’s all wonderful now and the execs have turned over a new leaf since the last time I gave it a look.

    Wonderfalls and Firefly got canned. I’m still mad about that, which is why I have such a rotten attitude about this. I don’t need to know what’s on now. I know that the only two shows I’ve really cared about in the last decade didn’t make it out of their first season.

    I’m nursing a grudge.

  22. Adam says:

    My fees are ment to the Union. I am not a Union supporter, I do feel that Unions had their place in the past but now they seem to be the way of steam powered computers. Most unions do require you to either pay a weekly/monthly/yearly fee. Some of the these are minial, some can be out right crazy. I just don’t see the need to pay someone so you have the ability to work in the field that you chose to work in.

    The writers union may be a good thing to keep all the studios and institutions that use the writers input on the same level. At the same time, these unions may be too bulky and ponderous to allow a smooth flow into the new age to fst paced information.

  23. Otters34 says:

    I don’t really understand why someone would be so emotionally attached to a TV show.After all, as some guy once said:”Telelvision is a medium, it is called so because it is neither rare or well done.”.

    Which may sound harsh, but I was never really appreciative of its genius after the Tam children were introduced.

    Wow, a couple of kids in a Joss Whedon show that had a nasty father, what a total surprise!

  24. Shamus says:

    “Wow, a couple of kids in a Joss Whedon show that had a nasty father, what a total surprise!”

    Yeah, it was. I’d never seen the guy’s work before. Some people burned out on the guy after Buffy, but I didn’t watch it. It was all new to me.

    You don’t understand how “some people” could be so emotionally attached? *Shrug* I can’t speak for some people. I dunno. I liked it. It got canned.

    Nothing to be done about it.

  25. Taelus says:

    I can’t tell you how much I miss Firefly. I own the DVD’s and honestly, when my wife divorced me this summer, it was the first of the things she took that I replaced. I think I waited about an hour after she’d left before ordering it again on Amazon ;-)

    Anyway, good shows are indeed hard to come by. I feel badly for the writers because a lot of good ideas are tossed aside as being incapable of making money. True or not, TV and movies are an artform almost entirely based around what will or will not make instantaneous money, and that’s what writers are paid to generate. Some of the good stuff they generate is then used later without them getting any credit for it (monetary credit). So while I’m going to miss shows like Daily Show and Colbert Report for the time being, hopefully something good might come of all this…somehow.

  26. Strangeite says:

    I apologize if I came across as harsh, I really didn’t mean to. I also lament the loss of Wonderfalls and Firefly as both shows should have been given another season. Television today isn’t all rosy and perfect but there are gems hidden in the garbage.

    If you still have Netflix, you should check out the first season of Battlestar. A friend let me borrow the first season and it set on my shelf for about three months because I wasn’t really interested and I thought my wife would hate it. One night I made a deal with her that we would watch the first hour of the pilot. She agreed and the next thing we knew it was four hours later and she was rushing to the DVD player to put in the next episode. Today, she is more obsessed then I am about the show. The American Film Institute has given it the title “Best Show on Television” in both 2006 and 2007 for nothing.

  27. Phlux says:

    Here’s my take on firefly, based on listening to some of the bonus audio commentaries from the DVD and maybe one or two of the documentary features.

    In one of those bonus features he talks about how being on the verge of cancellation makes your writing stronger. He was furiously trying to stem the tide of poor ratings and lacking network support by writing better and better material.

    He also talks about how this was bad for his marriage and also for the digestive process.

    So when I think about it, I wonder if maybe we didn’t all fare just a bit better with 13 or 14 amazing episodes. Had the network given the show a fair shot, a decent timeslot and a chance to build an audience, they probably wouldn’t have had to work so hard. And even if they had, the pace would have killed them and eventually it would have turned into Buffy* with the writers phoning it in every other week and collecting a paycheck.

    *I watched Buffy once and didn’t care for it. This comment is based upon reports of more avid fans.

  28. Taelus says:


    I’m not sure if you ever watched the series or not. The Tam’s father wasn’t a mean or horrible person, he was just an integrated part of the society. He doesn’t believe that his government is doing the horrible things his son talks about because he doesn’t see any evidence that compels him, just like 99% of the remainder of the population. You’re correct that other main characters had family issues with their fathers (Buffy’s was a waste of time and Angel had killed his), but Joss is far more famous for doomed romances than dysfunctional families.

  29. neminem says:

    Yeah… I do find it rather ironic that you mention Firefly, given that, as you’ve been informed, Whedon is making a new sci-fi series, and has mentioned that its release might be delayed as a result of the strike.

    By the way: watched any Doctor Who? It’s quite good, and even not Hollywood!

  30. Alex says:

    I’m also sorry I called you out on cynicism, but I know I’m perfectly capable of that. I’ll admit that I watched 90% of Buffy and 80% of Angel, and 100% of Firefly, but I think that Whedon is insufferably smug a lot of the time. People compliment his shows on their creative use of language, but I think that he murders it.

    That said, too, Firefly’s failure was a lot less down to personal taste and a lot more down to ornery network bastards. But just because a couple of things that you thought were good – and I won’t hesitate to add that Tim Minear had a strong hand in Wonderfalls – were canceled, that doesn’t mean all hope should be lost for television! Ugly Betty is awesome!

    (I’m also not saying that I disliked any of these properties – but you can like something while also being really annoyed with it!)

  31. Trevor says:

    The writers strike will give me time to catch up on good anime. It helps that Japanese TV doesn’t air in the same schedule that American TV does. (And yes, there is [now] good anime that isn’t profoundly deep, Pokemon childish, or somewhere too far down the spectrum of tentacle porn)

  32. Alex says:

    3AM phrasing: of course I’m perfectly capable of calling you out on cynicism! I was trying to say “I am perfectly capable of being cynical myself and therefore understand”.

  33. Neil says:

    For anyone interested in learning more about the reasons and realities of the writer’s strike, I recommend Mark Evanier’s blog (www.newsfromme.com). He’s been posting a lot about it in the last month, and though he is a writer himself, he’s also one of the more even-handed people you’ll find on the web.

  34. Shamus says:

    Alex says, “…but you can like something while also being really annoyed with it!”

    On this point you and I emphatically agree.

    That’s like, half my website, right there. The post that drops in half an hour is another beautiful example of this. “This thing pisses me off and I can’t get enough of it!”

  35. Alan De Smet says:

    For anyone interested in some background on the strike from one writer’s perspective, I recommend Mark Evanier’s blog news from me. Evanier is the writer for a variety of television shows (including Garfield and Friends, to pick one out of the air at random) and comics (most notably, Groo). I recommend his blog anyway, because, like Twenty Sided, is just interesting. Just a few specific posts:

    A summary of the core point of contention
    on myths about the writer’s guild, including the idea that reality TV shows don’t have writers
    Some Q&A, including why the guilds don’t gang up on the producers

  36. The Gneech says:

    So … good writing on Firefly got it canned, and that makes the writers union a bunch of jerks?

    I also hear that if you buy kippers it will not rain. 0.o

    -The Gneech

  37. Fajitas says:

    “It's like a hammersmith being paid every time someone swings one of their hammers.”

    Now imagine please that the way the hammer industry worked was that hammersmiths were hired to make *one* hammer, with no guarantees that they would ever be hired again to make another hammer.

    All of a sudden, being paid by the swing doesn’t sound so unreasonable.

    Creative jobs in the entertainment industry have no job security whatsoever. Having a job today in no way guarantees you’ll have one tomorrow, or ever again. And not in a “stuff happens” kind of way; anyone could get fired tomorrow ’cause stuff happened. No, in the entertainment industry, this is the norm.

    Residuals aren’t a scam. They are how most working writers, directors, and actors support themselves and their families.

  38. Shamus says:

    I never said they were jerks.

    I said their work was awful! Totally different.

    Some people have suggested that their writing is terrible because of the execs (who I DO think are jerks) which is possible, but as a consumer it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me. I’m not going to try an extrapolate the true talent level of the folks behind every unfunny sitcom of the last 10 years.

  39. dodonna says:

    I generally find your arguments to be well-reasoned and articulate, but you are way, way off-base with this one.

    As others have pointed out, there is plenty of excellent writing on the tube. (I’d add “30 Rock” to the list.) You have to poke around a bit to find it, but that’s because there’s just so damned much TV these days. Damning the entire industry because a couple of shows you liked were mishandled is shortsighted. (Ironically, Whedon’s new “Dollhouse” series was given a commitment by FOX, whose mistreatment of “Firefly” left him with nothing good to say about that network for years. Apparently, he got over it.)

    And don’t kid yourself about the potential length of the strike. The last one, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks and had devastating effects for the industry.

    This one could hurt even worse. The TV networks have already been seeing double-digit decreases for audience numbers this season thanks to the proliferation of entertainment choices, including some of those self-same online and DVD viewing options the writers are striking over. There’s a lot of concern that audiences might not return after a long strike.

    To the poster who wrote, “Residuals are the sweetest scam in the world,” imagine that instead of having a steady job in which you pull down a weekly paycheck, you go months without a paying gig. You might feel a bit differently about that sweet “scam.”

  40. Meems says:

    Agreed. Novel writers get paid in royalties (from what you’ve said, it sounds like this is the same as residuals?) and script writers should get the same deal.

  41. Shamus says:

    And to those of you who keep telling me I need to watch TV before I make fun of it:

    * No I don’t. What I’m leaving out are the dozens of awful shows I hated and that dragged on for years. I’m not bringing those up because I don’t want to debate with the fans of a dozen awful shows.

    * I’m just not interested. TV has commercials, which I find to be insufferable. Even if the shows were great, I’d get them via netflix. I can’t abide broadcast TV.

    * I have no *personal* grudge against TV writers except that they work in an industry which was a source of endless irritation for me.

  42. Dev Null says:

    I don’t lay claim to any great inside insight, but I do have friends working in LA in the film industry, and trying to sell some of their (excellent, but I’m biased) writing. Mostly they get paid a pittance or nothing for their work. I can’t help but wonder, if Hollywood was forced to actually pay something meaningful for writing, maybe they’d value it enough to look for good writing? It’d never work (too much supply / not enough demand; everyone in LA really IS trying to sell a script, and America eats up trash sitcoms like the sugar-coated filler they are) but I can dream, can’t I?

    And while I certainly understand the urge to throw a jab or two at the writing coming out of Hollywood, it does seem a bit heavy on the irony to use as an example a show that was written well but canned anyways… I’d love to ditch the stupid network execs, but they’re just visionless knee-jerks responding to market pressure. Can we fire the audience please?

  43. Shamus says:

    DEV NULL has a good point.

    Lots of fans of Wonderfalls and Firefly here, but this is a thread populated by thoughtful people who are already interested in that sort of thing. The sad truth is that idiotic sitcoms and social cockfighting (reality TV) is what the masses want.

    (Although, to be fair, I think Firefly should have been given a fair CHANCE to sink or swim. Cutting it, moving it, and showing it out of order was more or less murder. I don’t think any show could do well in those conditions.)

    Boy am I grumpy today.

    This was a rotten time to give up coffee.

    Actually, it’s ALWAYS a rotten time to give up the coffee.


  44. The Gneech says:

    “I'd love to ditch the stupid network execs, but they're just visionless knee-jerks responding to market pressure. Can we fire the audience please?”

    Well said!

    -The Gneech

  45. Bryan C says:

    Seems like this would be an awesome opportunity for non-Union writers to get their work noticed. Go for it, guys.

  46. Andy says:

    I’m on the side of the writers here, and I hope they succeed with their strike. Compared to what actors and directors make off royalties for their work, writers are pretty savagely cornholed. And the contract that just expired was terribly obsolete, having been forged before the explosion of home video.

    I hope the studios stop being greedy and give the writers their fair share.

  47. Kameron says:

    “* I'm just not interested. TV has commercials, which I find to be insufferable. Even if the shows were great, I'd get them via netflix. I can't abide broadcast TV.”

    Have you tried watching episodes online? There are a couple shows on NBC that I perpetually miss due to other commitments, and I catch them at a more convenient time online. Initially, my ad-blocker software screened out the commercials, but NBC then changed their code so an episode wouldn’t start unless a commercial played first. So I turned off the ad-blocking software for the initial commercial, but then turned it back on after the show started. No commercials for the rest of the show.

  48. Space Ace says:

    In response to the sci-fi comment:

    One key thing here is that sci-fi that’s good, isn’t considered sci-fi anymore. It gets streamlined into one of the more “mainstream” genres (The Road = Drama, Alien = Horror, etc.). A practice that should be punished by castration, if you ask me.

  49. “I now carry a bitter grudge against the industry in general, with a special abhorrence for all the writers who think “sci-fi” means “moody, angst-ridden romance in space”.”

    Ya know, I love Firefly dearly, but even I find it a stretch to imagine that it’s marked by a lack of moody, angst-ridden romance in space.

    Meanwhile, reading through this discussion one thing that keeps hitting me is that the TV industry has changed. Nowadays, if a show doesn’t find an audience really fast, it’s toast. Many of the classic, highly popular shows of the past took quite a while to gain popularity, and were given that time because the network culture back then allowed for doing so, where now they wouldn’t be. But at the same time, with all the channels and more non-TV competition, it’s way harder for a show that doesn’t have a lot of publicity fanfare behind it to find that audience. When there were 3 networks and not much cable, chances are any given show that airs, you’ll see some of sooner or later and if you like it you’ll make time for it. Nowadays, I haven’t even heard of 90% of what’s out there.
    So the chances are greater and greater that lots of shows get cancelled even though there are lots of people out there who would watch them if they knew what the show was.

    I suspect over time, at least for people with relatively specialized tastes, TV is going to die. Instead, people will air shows on the internet, and SF fans or travel show fans or whatever will go to websites with reviews and discussions and go watch the stuff that the aficionados think is good. And they’ll do it right then instead of trying to remember to try to find the time slot the broadcaster feels like giving it.

  50. Cadamer says:

    I completely agree.
    Firefly was one of the best shows to come out of the last 10 years of TV.
    Hey! Maybe this strike is a chance for some ‘scabs’ like us to move in and bring some new life to the medium?
    Hell, I’d write for free just to avoid the doom of reruns and reality TV that the news is forcasting.

  51. bkw says:

    I thing BSG is the target of the “angst in space” comment. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  52. bkw says:

    Also, my family watches almost zero live TV, except for the Food Network, perhaps. Everything else is either wait-until-it’s-all-over-and-watch-on-DVD-if-it’s-any-good, set-the-DVR-and-watch-a-few-episodes-at-the-end-of-the-month, or download-off-the-intarweb-yarrr.

    Also, hyphens are fun.

  53. Shamus wrote: “Wonderfalls and Firefly got canned. I'm still mad about that, which is why I have such a rotten attitude about this.”

    Hang on…

    (1) Writers produce shows you like to watch.

    (2) Studio executives cancel them in favor of show you don’te like.

    (3) You blame the writers for producing crappy shows.

    I guess I’m not following the logic.

    Septyn wrote: “Residuals are the sweetest scam in the world, right next to licensing and “maintenance” fees. Imaging being able to work *once* and get paid every time someone uses your work.”

    This is assinine. If you want to argue that either (a) the current system of IP law is badly designed or (b) that IP law (the only effective and extant system for making sure that creative people are incentivized to create) is a bad idea in general, then do it.

    But arguing that the actual Creator of a work should not be paid commensurate with the success of that work so that a Studio Bureaucrat can rake in the profits from that work without the impediment of paying them a reasonable percentage of their profits… well, that just comes across as assinine, IMO.

    Justin Alexander

  54. Zaghadka says:

    “I'd love to ditch the stupid network execs, but they're just visionless knee-jerks responding to market pressure. Can we fire the audience please?”

    “And if they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    Watch where you tread. Here there be monsters.

  55. Martin says:

    Off topic, but the BSG Razor movie that’s available for download is incredible.

  56. Miako says:

    Colbert and Stewart are members of the Writer’s Guild.
    Stewart’s paying two weeks salary to all of the writers for both shows.
    Stand up guy.
    I figure I might as well stand with ’em.

    –plus, have you seen Arrested Development?

  57. Davesnot says:

    Looks like someone picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue..?.. There are a couple of well-written shows.. I thought of Scabbing for some.. but I don’t think the Boston Legal’s writers can be subbed for.. great writing.

  58. Chris says:

    I agree with you, Shamus that the history of TV is replete with bad writing. That’s why I don’t watch “TV” either and I gave it up for many of the same grudge-issues you mention — bad writing being foremost among them. But I do rent and buy TV dvds and I have to say that this has given a new perspective on the medium. There are indeed excellent shows on TV and frankly, I’ve come to enjoy watching a well-made TV series, with it’s sustained and in depth plots and arcs, more than watching feature-length films. I particularly enjoy Sci-Fi on TV — though I do not like the SciFi channel in general (issue for another rant). As mentioned earlier by Strangeite, Battlestar Galactica is outstanding, right up there with Firefly in my opinion (although I noticed in your post that you dislike of space operatics, so Battlestar may not be for you). My Name is Earl is damned funny and smart. Sopranos, Deadwood, Rome…they’re all superbly written…better and more satisfying than 99.9% of the films out there.

  59. Adamantyr says:

    I suggest, Shamus, that you read over this site before making any definitive final judgments on the value of writers:


    Mark Evanier, the maintainer of this blog, has been working with comics, animation, and TV shows for several decades. He even has the sad claim of being one of the creators of Scrappy Doo. :)

    Check out what he has to say about the WGA strike before you wish such bitter defeat upon them.

  60. Bizarre says:

    as·i·nine /ˈà¦səˌnaɪn/ Pronunciation[as-uh-nahyn]

    1. foolish, unintelligent, or silly; stupid: It is surprising that supposedly intelligent people can make such asinine statements.

    Sorry, “assinine” just REALLY bugs me.

  61. Telas says:

    OK, we can stop spamming Shamus’s blog with Mark E’s blog.

    Please. Three links should suffice.

    Frankly, I occasionally watch one or two shows on TV: Heroes and whatever my wife watches (although last season’s Beauty and the Geek was impressive). This will have exactly 0 effect on my lifestyle, therefore I have exactly 0 amount of concern for the writers and their grievances.

    Had TV been a better medium (for any reason, from executive down to cameraman), I might care…

  62. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Oh noes!Less crappy stuff for me not to watch!Da horrorz!

    Funny thing about television though is that it shows how precious books are.

  63. Shapeshifter says:

    “(Although, to be fair, I think Firefly should have been given a fair CHANCE to sink or swim. Cutting it, moving it, and showing it out of order was more or less murder. I don't think any show could do well in those conditions.)”

    Sure they could! Shows that are so generic it doesn’t matter if you cut them, move them around, or show them in a different order survive just fine–the TV equivalent to unflavored oatmeal, but without any of the nutritiousness.

    In defense of Shamus, i don’t think you need to be a die-hard TV watcher to tell the whole thing is a joke. Unless it has gotten very much better recently, which is something i imagine people would have heard about.

  64. Otters34 says:

    What you have said is true, I have not seen much of Firefly(the name reminds me of FarScape, of which I have seen quite a bit), though I have read about it on Wikipedia.
    Oh, and one question, as regards to Plot.What is the Academy thinking? that it can just give people random superpowers for free and escape unpunished?

  65. Greyyguy says:

    I know there is a lot of crap on tv and in movies, but from everything I’ve read about the behind the scenes activities, it sounds like it is the producers and the production process that makes the most crap. The original Aliens 3 scripts were amazing, and instead they produced the one we all saw. If you watch Kevin Smith talk about his efforts in writing a script for the Superman movie and all the really stupid hoops he was forced to jump through, you will see how the writers are really beaten on by Hollywood.

    From everything I’ve read about the issues in the strike, if the writers lose the producers win. And as bad as you might think the writers are have you ever heard of anyone praising the creativity and added value of the producers?

  66. Brian says:

    Oddly enough, there’s still not going to be any shortage of good writing to entertain us over the next many months. Just, instead of being on broadcast television, it’ll be in Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty 4, and others. I think Mass Effect already is longer than the entirety of Battlestar Galactica filmed to date…

    Plus, less TV means more time for Rock Band.

  67. Dragonbane says:

    I remain astounded and amused that those folks talking about “original writing” but the one example everyone keeps throwing up is Battlestar Galactica (created by Glen Larson and produced in 1978). Someone else mentioned Doctor Who – that was created back in 1963 by Sydney Newman. Now, I realize of course that the scripts are new, but the bulk of the idea work was done decades ago. Hardly good examples guys, you might want to drop them.

    Pushing Daisies is a better example – though I’ve only watched the first episode, and to be honest while it was definitely original I didn’t at all care for it.

  68. Pidmon says:

    I’m australian, so we get shows stupidly late.
    Back a few years, when we had Foxtel (cable) I watched Dead Like Me religiously.
    2 seasons. Cliffhanger ending.

    Recently, Torchwood was shown on channel Ten (free to air). They moved it from Wednesday night, 9:30 PM to Midnight Tuesday/Wednesday with no warning.

    Another thing that annoys me is how long I have to wait before we get new episodes of Dr Who. I have no idea when we’ll get the christmas episode, let alone next season.

  69. Kayle says:

    After reading a bunch of the posts on Mark Evanier’s site, it’s pretty apparent to me that he is very much not even handed about this strike. He consistently is ignoring the differences between work-for-hire and other creative work (I’m assuming that most writing for TV is under work-for-hire rules, otherwise they’d be talking about royalties and not residuals). That said, writers sure seem to get the short end of the stick.

  70. Neil says:

    Yes, I suppose I may have used the wrong term there. I didn’t mean to imply that he thought both sides had an equally valid argument. Clearly he is on the side of the writers. But his point of view (on this and other issues) tends to be well reasoned and rationally explained, and he doesn’t go out of his way to vilify the opposing side. This in contrast to the usual shrill, blinkered rantings one tends to find on the Internet (though not here either, I rush to point out). Anyway, not really the point here, just wanted to clarify what I’d said.

    I know nothing of the differences between work-for-hire and creative work as they apply to the WGA. Have you asked him about it? I’d be interested to read his response.

  71. Tom says:

    Kayle, in this case, it probably is work for hire. A studio owns the rights to all the programmes they create (at least since 1995 they do, following a change in law by the government which is why Joss Whedon couldn’t take Firefly to another channel after Fox cancelled it) and a TV writer is hired in to write for them. It’s not like a musician or author who retains the rights to their work even after it’s published.

  72. Sir Shpladimus Doinkatron says:


  73. Mac says:

    OK, so I’m lagging here, but I’m gonna drop the comment in anyway. I’d also like to point out that I am completely ambivalent about the writers’ strike either way — the producers need to be skinned and rolled into a salt pit, but that isn’t an option.

    On to my pedantic points, which are more about risk and tradeoffs than about the writers in particular:

    “Now imagine please that the way the hammer industry worked was that hammersmiths were hired to make *one* hammer, with no guarantees that they would ever be hired again to make another hammer.”

    Um, I’m pretty sure that is exactly how hammersmiths work. Your guarantee of future work is based on A) the quality of your hammer, B) the “guarantee” that people will need more hammers, and C) the “guarantee” that there won’t be more people making better hammers or cheaper hammers than you. (Oh, and I’m skipping over the whole thing that nobody made their living just making hammers).

    The industrial revolution ruined a lot of craftspeoples’ lives… Given how formulaic many sitcoms and reality TV shows are now, I can’t help but think we’re experiencing TV’s industrial revolution. Craftsmanship is still present, but it’s harder to find and it costs more (just like trying to find a good blacksmith nowadays).

    All of which is irrelevant to this conversation, because making a hammer is fundamentally different from writing a story/poem/song/etc. If I make a hammer and sell it to you, you still can’t make another hammer like it unless you are (almost) as good as I am — in which case you didn’t need my hammer in the first place. If I write a poem and sell it to you, you can copy it for (nearly) zero cost and sell it to a huge number of people. This is the fundamental difference between “intellectual property / creative work” and manufacturing. (Which is also why we have copyright, DRM, fair use problems, etc)

    As others pointed out above, within the creative work field, there are two approaches: work-for-hire and what I shall call “personal” work (lacking an official term).

    If you accept a work-for-hire contract and payment, you are sacrificing the right of ownership of that work IN EXCHANGE FOR a guarantee of payment. Any additional rights granted to you and all forms of payment to you will be specified in that contract. The other party will OWN your work after it is completed. The contract may be (and frequently is) “unfair”, because typically you are not contracting as equals — the other party has all the cash and all the distribution channels, and you have an idea — which the web is showing is actually a relatively common commodity. You are free to not take the contract, but then you are working in the realm of:

    “Personal” creative work is retained by you through the copyright and other IP laws. You own it. Nobody can (legally) do anything with it that you don’t specifically grant them the right to do. Of course, IN EXCHANGE FOR this greater level of control and power over your own creation, you have accepted considerably higher risks. Not only do you have no guarantee of payment for future work, you don’t even have guarantee of payment for the current work. And you have to take on the challenge of protecting your copyright privileges. This road is MUCH harder to survive on, but if you do, you must have good stuff and a helluva drive to succeed, and you’re going to do well out of it.

    Note that this distinction isn’t just about paper and music. An engineer or engineering company can do work-for-hire engineering, with the resulting product being the property of the other person. Or that engineer/company can do engineering for itself and retain ownership of the product.

    So, we have a spectrum of career possibilities. We start with “guaranteed” monthly paychecks and benefits, but no creative input or ownership at all, and as we move down the list we accept more risk IN EXCHANGE FOR more creative input and ownership.

    * Government office job
    * Office job
    * Work-for-hire
    * “Personal” creative work

    Sorry to keep hammering on the phrase “IN EXCHANGE FOR”, but all life decisions are tradeoffs based on what is important for you. I personally would love to have a guaranteed income for sitting around developing the virtual world role-playing game that I want to write. Ain’t gonna happen. My options range from getting guaranteed paychecks at my office job and being too mentally gummed up to do any development at night, through to living on my savings and hoping to get the game done and selling before I starve. There’s a wide range of tradeoffs in between, but they’re all TRADEOFFs. If you decide to do creative work, you decide to take on more risk in your livelihood.

    I know at least slightly of what I speak. I created a 3D facial animation tool. I had to do this in my spare time from work. When it came time to sell it, I found that I was very attached to it. I had the option of selling it to another company for a meaningful amount of money and royalties on each copy, or of selling it myself for all the money and control over future directions. I chose to retain control. From a monetary standpoint, I chose poorly. But the product is what I want it to be, and the people who own it like it that way. But it was a tradeoff, and I had to decide, and I had to live with the consequences. My particular choice was based on a combination of low-risk personality (I’m still working my day job, so I don’t have to eat based on sales of the product) and control-freak tendencies. C’est la vie…

    (Should you happen to be interested, with all due apologies for the shameless plug: http://macreitercreations.com )

    Are the studios sticking it to the writers? Almost certainly. Are the studios sticking it to us? Yep. Should the writers get paid more for what they do? Depends entirely on how firmly they feel about it, how firmly the audience feels about reruns, and what supply and demand eventually turn out to be.

    Wow, that was a LOT longer than I meant for it to be… (but it rambles almost precisely as much as I expected)

  74. Jim says:

    I grew up in Flint, Michigan. Ever see the movie ‘Roger & Me’? Trust me, unions are death to any industry (although they were useful fifty or more years ago).
    Concerning Shamus’ remarks about sit-coms: they took the characters from an already-past-it’s-sell-by-date commercial and made it into a sit-com! ‘Nuff said.
    Bottom line: If television was all as well-written and entertaining as Shamus’ rant (whether you share his opinions or not) – we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  75. FlameKiller says:

    the show Bones has stepped up the vilence and gore just to attract the veiwers. the sad thing is that the studio is accepting these ideas to get more veiwers. and they are getting the veiwers. the veiwers might even be asking for the gore. the veiwers ask, the writers write, and the studio shows it. i also wonder how many times the show takes breaks so the actors can puke.

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