Thursday, November 15, 2007

COLUMN: Strike

"IT'S ABOUT TIME!" I yelled when I heard the news. Immediately I threw down my work and told my boss where he could stick it. I ran home, grabbed a can of paint and made up my protest sign. Then I remembered that I wasn't in the Writer's Guild of America, and I wasn't going on strike. Phooey. Just when I was about to go all Norma Rae on the newspaper and everything.

It's no fair. Even if I wanted in, the Writer's Guild of America is only for broadcast and theatre writers. So we lowly newspaper hacks continue to slave away at the keyboards while TV writers get to kick back and relax in an angry picket line. I want to picket something, doggone it. Unfortunately I don't really care about any of the issues, plus I'm perfectly happy here at the paper. I just want to be in the mix. I want to take a stand.

Problem is, I don't know where to stand. At the core level of the WGA strike, you've got a bunch of scriptwriters trying to make it better for themselves. As an occasional writer, I'm down with that -- especially when it comes to movies. Writing is the most important part of making a good flick. If you don't believe me, go watch "Clerks." Great writing + bad acting + bad directing still equals great movie.

But the Guild's big beef with the major studios is that writers aren't getting paid for online distribution of their work. So if you go to NBC's website and watch an episode of "My Name is Earl," the writers for Earl aren't getting a cut of any profits.

The problem here? To my knowledge, no one's figured out a profitable model for online TV yet. Prices are always fluctuating on iTunes, and the networks can't figure out how to go about selling ad space for the web-surfing community. It's a cluster-coitus. Technology evolved before its accompanying business model, and the networks are still playing catch-up.

So where does that leave us? If the strike ends, we'll be paying more money or suffering through more ads in order to get our internet dose of "30 Rock." If the strike keeps going, the networks will fall back on writer-free reality shows and we can look forward to a future of "Spelunking with the Stars" and "America's Next Top Farmer." It's a no-win. But I've got a plan.

See, there's one thing that the Writer's Guild of America didn't count on: ME! Here's my offer, major television studios of America: hand your show's writing over to me, Shane the Scab. I have all the necessary qualifications: I watch a lot of TV, I have no scruples, and I work cheap. So hire me. I'll write for every show for every network. Ideas just pour out of me. Every show will be a hit, guaranteed. Here's what I'm thinking:

* Tonight, on a very special "ER", tragedy befalls County General when a sudden explosion rips through the hospital, killing every doctor, nurse, and assorted minor character. The end. A grateful nation applauds.

(Let's face it, "ER" is the worst show in the history of shows, plus it's been on the air about ten years too long. It'd be a mercy killing, trust me. Oh, and House? You're next.)

* This week on "Desperate Housewives:" Okay, so there's the one kinda hot housewife, right? Well, she gets into a fight with the OTHER kinda hot housewife. Naturally, the altercation moves to their newly-installed backyard mud wrestling pit. For, like, an hour...

(Okay, fine, I've never seen an episode of this show. Wanna know why? 'Cause I'm a guy -- and this show's made for girls. Advertisers like reaching ALL demographics, right? Well, bring on the mud wrestling and the guys WILL watch.)

* CSI: Davenport. Crime scene investigators are summoned to town when information about a business moving to Iowa gets leaked to the press. Blame falls on an eccentric city council member, who becomes shunned by the town's mayor and city manager and loses his bid for re-election. Our team carefully puts the pieces together and comes to the stunning conclusion: No One Cares. (This story is fictional-ish. Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental-esque.)

If that's not enough, I've even got a great idea for a new series, loosely titled "Shane's Ultimate Fantasy." Katie Holmes stars as a happy-go-lucky girl finding her way through life. But here's the wacky comic twist: she's completely allergic to clothing! Hilarious hijinks ensue as she tromps around town naked! Oh, and since it's my ultimate fantasy and all, there should also be some ninjas in there someplace. Ninjas with lightsabers. And a talking car. And maybe the A-Team. I'm looking for a two season commitment.

Whether I'm involved or not, I just want the strike to be over so I don't lose the mind-numbing goodness of my boob tube. If the next season of "Lost" gets strike pre-empted by "When Animals Attack 4," I may not be responsible for my actions. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to hop online and watch some TV.

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