It sure sounds like Hollywood screenwriters will go on strike Monday. Thursday night's closed-door meeting of the Writer's Guild was reportedly full of strike rhetoric, with writers booing and hissing when their officers mentioned concessions they'd offered to the studios to get negotiations on a new contract moving. "Take it all back!" one writer yelled. The writers are demanding a bigger cut of the revenue from DVDs, downloads and other digital byproducts of movies and TV shows.
The last strike, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks. (Remember how the networks plugged holes in their schedules with stuff like a remake of the Mission Impossible series, using old scripts?) Most observers think this one will be longer and more bitter: The writers think they settled for too little in 1988, and the studios are now mostly owned by conglomerates with plenty of cash reserves to keep them above water during a strike.
If there's a strike, the late-night shows of Jay Leno, David Letterman and other hosts will disappear almost immediately -- they're written on a day-by-day basis. (Same goes for Saturday Night Live.) Dramas and comedies will probably continue normally until sometime around February -- the producers already have several episodes in the can, and several more completed scripts that they can continue shooting.
Like cockroaches scuttling around in the ruins of a nuclear war, reality and game shows will not only survive but thrive. They're edited together rather than written, so the strike won't affect their production. That's why Fox will be in the best shape of any network during a strike: Can you say American Idol? Not to mention Cops and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader? Even a ratings dog like The Next Great American Band is likely to seem appealing in a landscape full of reruns. Hey, I wonder if this blog could be made into a reality show? Are You Smarter Than A TV Critic? has a nice ring to it.