Thursday, January 3, 2008

Beards Don't Hide Guilt

Last night David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno took the stage without writers. Well, Letterman had writers because he made a side deal with the union but both Conan O'Brien and Leno 'ad-libbed.' I read about how outrageous and funny it was that both Letterman and O'Brien had 'Strike Beards.' I also read that it might be political suicide for Huckabee to cross the picket lines to appear on the Leno show. What I didn't read about was how David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno should be called whores of the worst kind because they are attempting to go on with show while there is still a strike. And to add insult to injury, the three promoted their support for the strike while they were on air. Sorry fellas, the damage is already done. The death blow has been delivered. How can you possibly support the WGA Strike, while helping the Motion Picture and Television Industry prove that writers just aren't that important. And I'm not accepting the answer that the big, mean NBC and CBS Studios are making them do the show. Last time I checked, it was called The Late Show With David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Without them, there is no show.

I guess if I were to rank the whorishness of this scenario, Leno would have to be A Numero Uno for he is still a member of WGA and may have violated the strike by writing his own stuff last night. Next up would have to be Conan because he once was a member of WGA. And bringing up the rear is Letterman who avoids a bit of guilt because he is at least paying writers to write his show.

The strike is real. And it's time for those who can affect change to do so. Stop sympathizing and start doing. If Leno, Letterman and O'Brien really want to send a message that they support the strike, then don't do the show. If the studios take them to court for violating their contracts, then I say go and do that. Do they really support the strike or not? It's time to get serious, and sorry, beards are not the answer.


Neil Sarver said...

I'm unable to join the including of Dave in any substantive way. The WGA itself decided it was to their advantage in some manner to agree to an interim contract and negotiate it with Worldwide Pants. I'm unsure if it was to show that their demands were so reasonable that they could be negotiated or because they imagined it would show what a show with writers could do against a show without... I don't know. All I do know is that Dave has his Is dotted and Ts crossed when it comes down to it.

PIPER said...


I'm somewhat in agreement with you on this and may have been a bit too harsh on Letterman. But I doubt that the agreement that was made with the writers of Letterman is what they ultimately want. So, in effect, it's a band-aid. But it may be a step in the right direction, unlike what Leno and Conan have done.

Neil Sarver said...

I'd like to see the terms on the agreement. The official word from the WGA is that it's exactly the deal they've been trying to make with the AMPTP, which is their talking point, for whatever it's worth.

I know among guild members the decision is controversial in itself with good points to be made on both sides.

I'm kind of glad for the whole thing just because it adds a new bit of excitement into it, watching to see what guests will show for the scab programs and whatnot. One could hardly have asked for better sport to come out of this. Unless it involved throwing things at producers.

PIPER said...


If that's the case then that's good news and you're right that it adds some excitement. This might be a big tip that negotiations may be coming to an end.

Neil Sarver said...

Well, it's slightly more complicated, as Worldwide Pants doesn't work in "Reality TV" or animation, etc., and lots of production companies have specific deals that give more than they have to, which give the AMPTP plenty of talking points back. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it myself.

If Dave gets all the good guests and his ratings crawl over Jay's, I'll probably settle on feeling good. However it'll most likely be more complicated, in talk show terms and how the politics of all of these shows returning affects the strike.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

I also don't think you should include Dave with the others. He gave the WGA everything they wanted, and now the WGA is using that to show the rest that it can be done.

Dave even brought the striking writers from other shows on Wednesday to deliver the Top Ten list.

Sheamus the... said...

Ha...beards are always the answer. This strike is driving me crazy. I just want to watch the goods. So whatever it takes to be over. Bears, beer, or fear.

Sheamus the... said...

hey man you shoudl check this out..hell you might already be involved.

cool thigns going on over there.

Anonymous said...

Strong words, Piper.

I have been torn about the strike. The writers deserve fair compensation, but some of what they want is unreasonable (digital downloading? How is that policed?).

Although frankly, none of the people on either side of the strike deserve their jobs, because everything they have produced since the last strike sucks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Piper -

Good post, but I think you're being a little harsh towards these hosts who are being put in a very difficult position.

Let's say there are 100 people who work on your talk show. Now let's say 9 of them, the writers, go on strike. You fully support them. You think they are just in their cause. So, you pull the show off the air for two months, and because you are infinitely wealthier than they are, you even pay everyone's salaries while the show is gone.

Now, however, you have 91 other people who work on the show, who aren't striking... but they're not working either, so they're not getting paid. What do you do? Can you afford to pay the full time salary of everyone on the entire staff? For how long?

Or do you go back on the air, without the writers, hoping that you've shown your support both to their cause, AND to the other 91 people who need the work, who have kids, mortgages to pay... and are NOT striking?

In an odd way, Letterman unfortunately may have done the most damage (as much as I passionately love Dave). His company, Worldwide Pants, cut a deal with the WGA so that his show (and Craig Ferguson's show) could return WITH his writers, who are WGA members.

Why is this bad? Well, it just might cause a bit of jealousy among the WGA since Dave's writers are the only writers in the whole industry getting paid to write, but that's not the worst of it.

The WGA and Dave thought that if they went back with writers (and Leno didn't) then Dave would slaughter Jay in the ratings, thus showing the producers how truly valuable the writers are, perhaps giving them an advantage at the negotiating table.

So far though, Leno is still winning the ratings race (albeit only after 2 shows).

Neil Sarver said...

As I said before, Mark Evanier often has a good perspective on all of this stuff on his blog. I wish right now he tagged, as a "strike" tag would be handy. Today's post, Strike Stuff has a number on nice points on the issues involved here.

To Ray's statement, I'm not sure how to any reasonable person the digital issue is at all unreasonable.

Mind you, the WGA's laundry list in overall optimistic... For better or worse, that is indeed how negotiation is done. Both sides come with optimistic lists and they negotiate off less important things to hold on to more important things. Some less important things are symbolic, you want them on the table for future negotiations, you want to be able to tell some of your represent that you tried for it or politically you want to be able to say the people you're negotiating with wouldn't let you have it.

I think judging either side by the whole of what they bring to the table is missing the point entirely.

However, I think at this point the digital issue is anything even similar to unreasonable. The issues surrounding the notion that it is are absurd and not even worthy of giving credence. Television networks are increasingly providing programming and studios are working on an increasing number of ways to provide movies, including through Amazon and Netflix. To investors, they can't stop touting the income these are bringing in.

I suspect that the reality is somewhere between what they're telling the WGA and what they're telling investors, but certainly there is a serious attempt to make money from this, and it's beginning to bear some fruit. The writers would be foolish to not get in line for their piece and the AMPTP is transparently lying in saying it can't be done.

As to craigbe, as Mark Evanier notes in the article linked above, Dave closed in the second night, and since the first night was slightly higher but basically the same as it had been before the strike. That should surprise no one.

The difference the WGA (and Dave) should be watching for is over time. Can having a series with writers maintain a higher quality? Can Dave get (and maintain) better guests from people who won't cross a picket line to go to the other shows? The answers to these questions are one's that won't be answered in these first couple of days.

So, frankly, it remains complicated.

But I still don't think I can blame Dave even if the ploy fails. Ultimately, giving Worldwide Pants an interim contract was a ploy they hoped, indeed, I suspect are still hoping, would give them ground. It was still their gamble to make or not. Worldwide Pants making the overture seems a very odd place to place the blame.

PIPER said...


I appreciate the debate here.

Ray, I think it's hard words to say that nothing good has been done since the last strike. The writers have not had their contract updated since the late 80's and its due time.


You make good points, and while it's good to see that Dave has a good side and wants to support everyone, the responsibility should ultimately fall on the Motion Picture and Television Industry. The pressure sucks and the lack of work sucks, but it's these exact things that help get the strike resolved. A strike without sacrifice is not really a strike.

And while its true that Dave may have done this to get the upper hand, I think it's a sad world that Dave has to do anything to get ahead of Jay Leno. His show is so far superior to Leno's it isn't even funny.

Lucas said...


the way i see it is that Dave is completely on the side of the writers, and having been forced to do what Conan and Leno have to now back in '88, took steps to separate his show from that potential problem.

WorldWide Pants gave the WGA everything they wanted, publicly stated that they, as a company, had no problem with any of the WGA's demands, and was the first company to announce they'd cover staff salaries through xmas.

it's not Dave's fault the other production companies are being so greedy.

Me, I won't watch Leno or Conan or Jon Stewart or Colbert until the writers come back, but I'll watch Dave, and I hope once the novelty of the "new" Tonight Show wears off, Dave destroys Leno in the ratings, because that would be awesome for a number of reasons

PIPER said...

Alright, alright already. David Letterman is a Saint. It's not like I don't like the guy because I do. And here's hoping that Leno gets lots of bad press from this and he goes in the tank. I guess the real bad guy in this situation is NBC.

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