Strike That

The Hollywood writers strike drags into another week, and most of Broadway’s theatres are dark because of a walkout by stagehands — both groups have legitimate issues, and selfish ones too. Unfortunately a lot of innocent bystanders in all this will take a serious budget whack on the cusp of the holiday season.

So why now? One word: leverage. The writers picked November because it’s a key ratings month — advertisers decide purchases , and networks set rates based on data gathered during the “sweeps” months of November, February and May. Right now it’s the late night talk shows — Letterman, Leno — and the topical variety shows — Daily Show, Colbert Report — that are shut down. You just can’t write cutting edge humor ahead of time! Producers have a half dozen or so episodes in the can for most comedy and drama shows, but the new year will be pretty grim if this thing doesn’t get settled soon.

Any writer wants to get the most they can from their work — not much happens until something is on the page. The battle for a piece of the new media pie — downloads, DVD packages — is a high stakes proposition and unfortunately consumers of entertainment products can only watch this drama from the sidelines. Still, with all the choices out there Hollywood better be careful not to bite the hand that feeds them.

As for the stagehands, this is an old school labor mud fight. The jobs in question are vital to the production of a Broadway show — but it’s also a niche profession in a niche business. The holiday season is one of the most lucrative for Broadway, and the fact that the union still has the power to shut down shows makes this standoff a very high stakes battle. Let’s face it, Broadway ain’t Hollywood — the margins between success and failure are razor thin. Also, very few Broadway performers walk home with a giant sack of cash every week. It’s a paycheck to paycheck, show to show life. This one needs to be settled fast to stop needless economic pain and suffering.

Get back to the table folks — and on with the show.

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