Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, September 12th, 2023
Welcome to my journalism nightmare
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, September 12th, 2023.
MY JOURNALISM NIGHTMARE
As you likely know if you've been subscribed to this newsletter for any amount of time, I have been writing a lot about the dual Hollywood strikes, and more than once have broken stories you don't see anywhere else. But I won't lie, no matter how carefully you report out stories, there is always this fear that you'll get some big aspect of the story wrong. And that might have happened last night with Sharon Waxman and The Wrap.
The publication posted a story entitled WGA Cancels Meeting With Showrunners Seeking To End Strike. The story kicks off with a very provocative bit of framing and that is where the problems begin:
The Writers Guild of America canceled a scheduled meeting with top Hollywood showrunners, including Kenya Barris and Noah Hawley, on Monday after a week of intense bickering over whether the guild was adequately seeking a resolution to the entertainment industry’s crippling four-month-old strike, TheWrap has learned.
Barris (“Black-ish”), Hawley (“Fargo”) and numerous powerful showrunners have been demanding answers from WGA negotiating leadership — namely chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman and committee co-chairs Chris Keyser and David A. Goodman — to ensure that the guild was motivated to get to a deal.
The showrunners began to reach out for clarification last Tuesday, and the exchanges with WGA leadership was described to TheWrap by an individual with knowledge as intense and emotional, with phone calls between individual showrunners and guild leaders leading to fights, shouting matches and “screaming hangups,” as the individual put it.
The story apparently broke as guild captains were in a meeting with Keyser and Goodman and the two men quickly pushed back against the reporting. According to several participants, they explained the meeting had in fact been canceled by the two showrunners after it was feared the meeting would be seen as a sign of splintering inside the WGA.
Now that's not an unreasonable concern. The 2008 WGA strike ended the way it did in large part because a group of about 30 showrunners confronted WGA leadership and warned they may break ranks with the guild if it didn't accept the terms previously negotiated by the DGA. While that helped bring that strike to a close, it left a lot of bad feelings and concerns that AMPTP might try and convince showrunners to make the same threat in 2023.
Once the WGA meeting ended, it seemed as if every participant left and went right on Twitter/X, where they proceeded to claim Waxman and The Wrap were everything from bad journalists to tools of the studio.
It feels more like a situation of believing the wrong source, but I did find this passage interesting since it implied the main source of the story also agreed with AMPTP's assessment of the current state of negotiations:
The AMPTP said in their statement that it “has not heard from the Guild since that time,” though the statement doesn’t make any note of the meeting with the CEOs held on Aug. 22. The individual with knowledge of the WGA’s canceled meeting with showrunners sided with the AMPTP’s account of the talks.
“[The WGA] have not countered. They have held the line with what they went in with,” said the individual. This person also said that Hollywood CEOs have continued to reach out individually to try to break the logjam and spark a true negotiating conversation.
But the individual said, “They’re not cooperating with anyone.”
I see a lot of framing in stories about the strike. That the WGA is refusing to listen to anyone and/or that the studios have yet to get serious about making concessions. And let's not forget the ever-popular "where are the grown-ups in the room" hot takes.
From what I can tell after speaking to multiple people on both sides, the problem is that there are really serious issues at play here and even in the informal back-channel talks that have been going on, both sides are willing to make a deal, but can't afford to make the deal the other side says it needs.
For all of the talk of potential disagreements on the WGA side (and despite the guild's protestations, there are some serious ones), members are generally clear on the parameters of their "must-have" requirements. And some of those will be extremely difficult to water down enough to make them palatable to the studios.
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And the studios have their own issues, among them some real disagreements on what issues are most important. The members have conflicting priorities, which makes negotiating a lot more challenging. And I continue to hear that a trio of executives - Warner Bros. Discovery's David Zaslav, Disney's Bob Iger, and Netflix's Ted Sarandos - are counseling to continue a hard line, although from what I can tell, each CEO's "hard-line" differs from everyone else's.
Then there is a company like Paramount Global, which arguably needs a deal more than any other studio. We're getting close to the point where the 2023-2024 broadcast TV season is a loss, the company is carrying $15.6 billion in long-term debt, and the company's financial situation is so precarious Moody's just dropped its ratings on the debt to just below junk status. Paramount needs a deal desperately so it can try and boost revenue as much as possible. And while I tend to dismiss most of the rumors that this media company or that media company is going to be acquired, Paramount would be my choice for the media company most likely to be cut up into parts like some Spongebob Squarepants-powered stolen car.
The strike isn’t continuing because one or both sides aren’t “serious” or aren’t willing to negotiate. The truth is that there are issues at play that don’t have easy answers and until both sides are able to contemplate making wholesale concessions, it’s hard to see how this gets resolved.
BTW, I have a piece posting tomorrow with some comments and observations from a few striking showrunners and I'll link to it in tomorrow's email.
ODDS AND SODS
* The original family holiday comedy Dashing Through the Snow, starring Lil Rel Howery, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, and Teyonah Parris, will debut November 17th, 2023 on Disney+.
* Penske Media web sites do a lot of petty things when it comes to reluctantly providing attribution to competing web sites. But it looks like sites like The Hollywood Reporter are embedding YouTube clips into stories, then disabling the option to "Watch On YouTube." If you click that option, you receive an error message and I've had the experience on a number of stories, so I don't believe it's a fluke. I'm sure there is some SEO or marketing reason behind the decision, but it just feels so pointless.
* You might have seen that TBS has licensed the cable reruns for Modern Family. That's less interesting to me than the news they're stripping it out in a three-hour daily early-afternoon block, followed by an expanded block of The Big Bang Theory. Which moves the network more towards the standard for most general-interest cable channels. Little or no original programming, with large blocks of the same reruns everyday.
TWEET OF THE DAY
WHAT'S NEW TODAY AND TOMORROW:
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH, 2023:
* Glow Up (Netflix)
* Kelce (Prime Video)
* Michelle Wolf: It's Great to Be Here (Netflix)
* The Swarm Series Premiere (The CW)
* 2023 MTV Video Music Awards (MTV)
* Welcome To Wrexham Season Two Premiere (FX)
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)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU TUESDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.