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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

If A Writer Strikes and No One Cares, Does it Make a Sound?

by Neena Louise

Much has been said about the possibility of an impending writers' strike and how networks are "stockpiling" scripts for next season and how new productions will be halted...so much fear-mongering. All I have to say is: "So what?".

I fail to see how a writers' strike will have an impact on what's on TV these days. This season was the shortest I've ever witnessed, and so rife with repeats, pre-emptions and blasť episodes, it was hardly worth tuning into in the first place. So, what, then, there'll be even fewer new episodes? SO WHAT?! There'll be even more repeats. SO WHAT?!

Don't get me wrong: I have a great deal of respect for scriptwriters (the good ones, anyway) and I'm sure they have valid reasons for wanting to strike, though I don't know what they are (and don't much care). However, they are at the mercy of how the Suits have driven network television further and further into the ground, and viewer apathy has descended into the writers' rooms. The only ones who seem to care about a writers' strike are Hollywood insiders (they are the ones whose paychecks are being threatened).

The only clear ratings coups this season have been in reality television: Survivor, The Mole, Boot Camp, etc. Though I know writers are needed for this genre as well, they'd still be able to stay in production without writers (unless the crew refused to cross picket lines), so striking would be rather pointless.

I have a great deal of pity for today's scriptwriters. There's so much pressure to be young and fresh, stay politically correct and yet still create a hit - and probably for what amounts to a pittance. But striking isn't the answer, because the television-viewing public doesn't care. There hasn't been enough good television this season to warrant caring. It's not the writers' fault, but that's the way it is. So how do the writers get what they want without striking? Good question. They probably can't, but I wouldn't count on public support in negotiations. Television has been in a long, slow decline for years and unless the Powers That Be finally GET A CLUE and start paying attention to what viewers want, viewership will continue to decline, and even fewer will care whether or not there are new episodes.

It's a system that's not fair to writers, because today's television is no longer a writer's medium. It's also a system that's not fair to viewers because - unlike the unenlightened television executives' assumptions - most of us would actually prefer a wider range of well-written and intelligent alternatives to such scintillating fare as Temptation Island, Chains of Love and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (and don't even get me started on The Weakest Link). In fact, looking at television in general - and this last season in particular - it makes you wonder just who today's television is designed for.

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