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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Striking for Civil "Writes"

One of the earliest maternal wardrobe memories I have as a child is an old, faded, magenta shirt my mom had that read, "Behind every successful man is an exhausted woman." Outdated, presumptuous and slightly chauvinistic? Sure, but ain't it the truth? A cotton lesson learned early on that individual recognition is actually a team effort, something that millions of TV-obsessed Americans have finally begun to realize this past month. In fact, I think a more current version of the T-shirt would actually sell quite well these days: "Behind every pretty celebrity face is a team of pissed-off writers on the picket line." And with that, disaster ensues: major studios are pulling the plug, so to speak, on the majority of their most popular shows. Wait, late-night hosts aren't always that funny on their own? The cast of Grey's Anatomy doesn't actually jabber away all day long in witty banter in their own little microcosm in Seattle Grace Hospital? Who knew? Let's face it: Who doesn't love romanticizing TV? Even I must admit I like to think the Lost crew is out there right now eagerly awaiting rescue. But weekly indulgences aside, finally putting the limelight on the creative minds behind the magic is the best thing to happen to TV in a long time.

Another great thing that has happened to television in recent years: Not actually having to watch a show during its scheduled airtime. First, there came TiVo and different spin-off technologies. Then came the commercials featuring the All American Family where the parents would talk about how said technology saved their lives because now they can go to work and, miracle of miracles, still manage to watch their favorite shows when they come home at night. And now, iTunes Store and free internet reruns of virtually any show ever aired on both studio and unofficial websites. It seems that right now we might be on the brink of the beginning of a slow end to relying on an actual television set to watch TV. The way of the future is here, and for some reason the writers are getting left behind.

Take music, for example, a media that has become a confirmed victim of the "Technology Age," where more than ever consumers are impatient and finicky because they can be. Why listen to the radio when you have an iPod (unless you're stuck in traffic and your iTrip is broken)? If you only want two tracks off a CD, why buy the whole thing if you'd only get stuck paying for the six love ballads, too, that you'd only skip over? The music industry has undoubtedly taken a hit, and I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next 10 years, TV didn't share a similar fate.

OK, so technology continues to throw the entertainment industry for a loop. Time to restructure, re-strategize, update and move on. Alternate vehicles for watching TV on the internet is becoming more and more popular and, as it does, it brings with it a whole new source of revenue that is not to be overlooked. A whole new market has emerged. Can you blame the writers for wanting a piece? The producers are claiming that they are not sure how much revenue comes in from internet streaming and iTunes, and seem generally frazzled about the whole thing. But, come on, if they brought us reality television then I'm sure they're clever enough to figure something out.

In the face of a new threat to regularly scheduled television, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The writers are the heart of the television industry; they are the ideas, the jokes, the melodrama, the meat and bones, if you will. On top of that is added a whole lot of fluff: good-looking actors, sets, facial expressions. But when it comes down to it, the text without the fluff is something, but the fluff without the text is nothing. Fluff referring to, perhaps, all the actors out on the picket line right now helping out because they suddenly have way too much free time.

One could argue that the behind-the-scene guys are the ones who have all the passion. After all, they're behind-the-scenes. But if the passion's not getting funded? Well, then that's just downright unfair. Let people complain that the strike has already gone on for too long. But I say, let the writers have their 15 minutes. They deserve it. Power to you, writers on the picket line. Oh, and what size shirt do you wear?