Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, September 13th, 2023
I, for one, welcome our new benevolent robot masters
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, September 13th, 2023.
I , FOR ONE, WELCOME THE BENEVOLENT RULE OF OUR NEW ROBOT MASTERS
The use of AI in the television and movie production industry has become a core issue in the ongoing negotiations between the WGA/SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP.
But during a presentation today at an investor conference in New York hosted by BofA Securities, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra said that not only is AI not a danger to the career of any writer or actor, the industry's creative workers should learn to love it, because it will make their lives so much easier:
Writers "are very afraid that we’re all going to put them all out of business. That is so far from the truth," Vinciquerra said. "AI is an unbelievable tool for the writers. Every writer we talk to says, 'We’re using AI to speed up our process and make it better.' You can’t copyright a product that is generated by a computer. You can only copyright product made by a person. So, we’re not going to take a script written by a computer and make it into a TV show or a film."
My snarky response would be to ask Vinciquerra to name three writers who have said something that pro-AI. That comment sounds more like an industry urban legend and I suspect he is saying that not because he has some personal knowledge of such comments. But because some lower-level executive had said to him "Boss, I just met with some writers and they are TOTALLY Team AI."
Comments like this gloss over one of the biggest concerns from writers and it is an issue that some writers have already encountered on smaller productions. Yes, you can't copyright a script created by a computer or make it directly into a TV show or movie. But a studio could use AI to generate a premise or build out a world. And then bring in a writer to flesh out the ideas into a script. Which the studio could then copyright. Without paying the writer anything other than an adaptation fee. The studio would own the now human-written idea, cutting the human creator completely out of the process.
Too Much TV Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
And Vinciquerra's take on actors and AI isn't much better:
As far as actors, he continued, "you can’t take someone’s image or likeness without their permission. And everyone in the AMPTP and the production business is fully aware of that and will adhere to that. So, I think on AI, we’ll find a way to come to a common ground, hopefully soon."
There are a myriad of problems with that statement. One, the "permission" part is more than a bit fuzzy. There are numerous reports of background actors being herded into trailers to receive a 360 scan of their likeness, with no extra money involved and the strong suggestion that refusing to be scanned could cost you the job.
And if "everyone in the AMPTP" knows you can't take someone's image without their likeness, why are actors such as Keanu Reeves making sure their specifically rule out any type of digital wizardry, including everything from using his likeness to looping his vocals digitally?
It's also important to remember that the last proposal from AMPTP included an offer to pay background one day's pay in exchange for being able to scan their images.
All of these comments were part of the campaign I noted today in a piece entitled "The Studios Kick Off Their 'Why Can't We All Just Get Along (And Settle)' PR Blitz." As I noted, this is te time in negotiations when executives begin making vague statements bemoaning the human costs of the strike, instead of discussing the specifics of a possible deal:
But statements with no follow-ups allowed aren't the only way to engage in controlled messaging. One favorite of Hollywood's media companies are the investor conferences, which allow executives to make a high-profile appearance in front of investors and the press without having to answer any awkward questions. Netflix's chief financial officer Spencer Neumann made an appearance at a Bank Of America media conference on Wednesday and he repeated the same general talking points you hear from industry executives when they discuss the strike: the strikes are bad for business, everyone wants to get back to work and we're all partners here, so why can't we get just get along?
These appearances are predictable, but they're also a reflection of how fluid everything is right now. In a better world, no one would be saying anything and regular negotiations would be underway. But alas....
AND IN THE MOST PREDICTABLE NEWS OF THE DAY
There is no sadder arc in show business than the lively political comic who slowly begins to drink his own kool-aid. From Mort Sahl's evolution from TV comic to file-waving JKF conspiracy fanatic to Dennis Miller's evolution from not-funny comedian to still-not-funny conservative cultural warrior, the history of comedy is littered with once funny political comedians who devolve into dour, self-important hacks.
Which brings me to Bill Maher, who at one point in his career was a genuine cultural phenomenon as host of the TV panel show Politically Incorrect. The shows were thoughtful, entertaining and mostly unpredictable. But in the same way that The Rolling Stones haven't changed their live shows in thirty years, at some point Maher just started repeating himself. Albeit wrapped in an unpleasant mix of arrogance, scorn and the certitude that he is one of the few people that is wise enough to see "the truth."
The past few years of Real Time With Bill Maher have been pretty forgettable. Maher makes some supremely ill-informed comment, which gets him a bunch of press. And his reaction to embrace the criticism and label it as an effort to "cancel" him. Instead of comprehending that people don't want to limit his speech. They would just prefer he not be such a dumbass.
On Wednesday night, Maher announced on social media that Real Time With Bill Maher is returning without writers. And if there was ever proof he needed writers, it can be found in his statement, which is a collection of excuses and vague explanations that manages to cram an impressive amount of dumb into one note:
Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing. It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns. Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily. We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening. I love my writers, I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much. I will honor the spirit of the strike by not doing a monologue, desk piece, New Rules or editorial, the written pieces that I am so proud of on Real Time. And I’ll say it upfront to the audience: the show I will be doing without my writers will not be as good as our normal show, full stop. But the heart of the show is an off-the-cuff panel discussion that aims to cut through the bullshit and predictable partisanship, and that will continue. The show will not disappoint.
Now, there are a number of things wrong with this statement, not the least of which is that he has apparently never been introduced to the concept of a paragraph break.
But the most important part of this is this passage: "I love my writers, I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year." Which is a somewhat gutless way of saying "Hey, I don't know about YOU suckers, but I am not giving up my salary just to support my fellow writers."
And that's one of the other issues. He is a writer. A member of the WGA and someone who is credited as such on his show. So by definition, continuing to do his show while not technically "writing" seems like a fairly difficult distinction.
And it appears the guild believes as much, given the statement posted by The WGA-W following Maher's announcement:
Bill Maher’s decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing. If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than “the spirit of the strike."
As a WGA member, Bill Maher is obligated to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services.
It is difficult to imagine how Real Time With Bill Maher can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show.
TWEET OF THE DAY
WHAT'S NEW TODAY AND TOMORROW:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH, 2023:
* America Outdoors With Baratunde Thurston Series Premiere (PBS)
* Animals Up Close With Bertie Gregory Series Premiere (Disney+)
* Assisted Living Season Premiere (BET)
* Caught In The Net Season Premiere (Investigation Discovery)
* Class Act Series Premiere (Netflix)
* Donyale Luna: Supermodel (HBO)
* Freestyle (Netflix)
* Marvel Studios' Assembled: The Making Of The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney+)
* Phoenix-Eden 17 (Hulu)
* The First Responders (Hulu)
* The Morning Show Season Three Premiere (Apple TV+)
* The Other Black Girl Series Premiere (Hulu)
* Wrestlers Series Premiere (Netflix)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH:
* A La Carte (ALLBLK)
* As Luck Would Have It: Murder For Sale (LMN)
* Barbie: A Touch Of Magic (Netflix)
* Buddy Games Series Premiere (CBS)
* Dragons: The Nine Realms Season Premiere (Hulu/Peacock)
* Ehrengard: The Art Of Seduction (Netflix)
* No Demo Reno Season Premiere (HGTV)
* Once Upon A Crime (Netflix)
* Southern Charm Season Premiere (Bravo)
* Theater Camp (Hulu)
* Thursday Night Football Season Premiere (Prime Video)
* Thursday's Widows Series Premiere (Netflix)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU THURSDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.