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Because of writers strike, MTV Movie & TV Awards was a different show than planned


Viewers of the MTV Movie & TV Awards saw a very different show last night than what was originally planned. That's thanks to the Hollywood writers strike. Drew Barrymore dropped out of hosting the program live, expressing solidarity with striking writers. She did appear in skits that had already been taped. But TV critic Eric Deggans, who joins us now, says what happened with the award show is something of an anomaly. Eric, good morning.


MARTIN: So the Writers Guild strike started nearly a week ago, halting work by union writers on film, TV and streaming projects. How is that affecting what viewers are seeing on TV?

DEGGANS: Well, I'm not sure that viewers are going to see much effect right now because the work stoppage hasn't yet really significantly affected the TV shows they can see. Now, some areas of the TV business have been affected right away. "Saturday Night Live" went dark. They canceled an episode a couple days ago that was supposed to feature Pete Davidson returning as guest host. Nightly talk shows like Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" have also stopped production. And, of course, we saw MTV pivot to a pre-taped Movie & TV Awards show filled with clips.

But the broadcast TV networks wind down their seasons by mid-May, so most of those series have already finished their episodes. Streaming services work up to a year in advance, so they have a lot of content in their pipelines. It might take a while for viewers to really notice a lack of new episodes of programs, which also means the strike may have to last a while before public sentiment really pushes both of these sides to consider a compromise.

MARTIN: Do we have a sense of what's been going on behind the scenes in this first week of the walkout?

DEGGANS: Well, both sides already seem to be fighting for the allegiance of the public. There's this growing sense that the strike could last for a long time. So among the writers, they're using picket lines to make sure their strike is visible and to try and limit productions by encouraging other people not to cross their lines, even if scripts are done. So reportedly, Apple TV+'s series "Loot" and Netflix's "Stranger Things" have paused production. On the other side, a representative for the studios released a detailed statement on Thursday, pushing back against some of the claims that were made by the writers, insisting that their proposals would compensate them much more than the union is willing to admit.

MARTIN: So the last strike by the Writers Guild, or the WGA, was 15 years ago. It lasted a hundred days. I know that we're less than a week into this one, but are you noticing differences between those two strikes so far?

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, one difference I'm hearing from the writers that I've talked to is that the level of support they're getting from other unions is pretty remarkable, especially groups like the Actors Guild and the Teamsters and the Directors Guild, which will start their own negotiations with the studios soon. There's a sense that the writers are fighting changes that are largely brought on by the streaming business, which has depressed their wages, and other unions know they're going to have to fight over similar issues in their new contracts as well.

Now, another big change is the influence of social media. When well-known actors join a picket line, you see that image in minutes. Picketers can organize. The writers can make passionate cases for why they're on strike, hearing personal stories to keep the issue in the news. The two biggest challenges they have is making sure the industry feels the pain from their work stoppage, and they need to keep up the members' morale as the strike moves from this energizing first phase to a more sustained slog.

MARTIN: That is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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