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How the ongoing writers strike has affected film and TV


It's a month into the strike by film and television writers. What's been the effect on what we can see or will be able to see in succeeding months? Lesley Goldberg is TV editor at The Hollywood Reporter and joins us now from Burbank, Calif.

Thanks so much for being with us.

LESLEY GOLDBERG: Thanks so much for having me.

SIMON: This strike by the Writers Guild of America began May 2. A lot of the spring season had already been scripted, filmed, produced. But late-night shows, for example, have had to suspend production. What's the effect? What have we seen or not seen?

GOLDBERG: Well, the late-night shows were, of course, the first to go down. And what continues to happen is members of the WGA are picketing studios, as well as picketing scripted productions that are still filming right now. And the amount of filming that is taking place in Southern California continues to dwindle. And members of the WGA are now out in force in Georgia, which is a big production hub as well because of the tax incentive program there. So they are now picketing locations and productions. And a lot of these networks and streamers have said, we're going to be OK. We have content. We have high-profile new scripted series and movies coming. And what the Guild is trying to do right now is shut down that pipeline.

SIMON: Which shows have been disrupted the most?

GOLDBERG: Well, production on a lot of shows has been either shut down for a day, which can cost studios between 200,000 and $300,000 per day. "Billions" has been impacted with multiple days of shutdowns because of picketers who have found the filming location for that. Here in Los Angeles, "Loot," the Apple show, starring Maya Rudolph was immediately shut down. "The Chi" in Chicago. I mean, right now anything that is filming is going to be the target of the WGA, especially if it's on the location.

SIMON: What about the rise in shows that are called "reality"? And I put that in air quotes. Are they impervious to writers?

GOLDBERG: Many of them are, yes. And that's one of the ways that a lot of the studios and streamers went into strike-prevention mode, and that was to greenlight. A lot of new reality shows are unscripted shows. So ABC, for example, will air a show in the fall called "The Golden Bachelor," which is an older gentleman looking for love after the loss of his wife. And that is going to be targeting an older demographic that typically tunes in for ABC's game shows, like "Wheel Of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!," and they're trying to really please affiliates with programming like this. Fox is doing a show where they're going to try to send celebrities to Mars.

SIMON: Excuse me. I didn't - you mean the first person on Mars might be Tony Danza?

GOLDBERG: I don't think they're actually going to try and send anyone to Mars.

SIMON: Oh, all right.

GOLDBERG: I think it's just, you know, the training for it. So it's basically anything that you can put celebrities in that doesn't involve scripts, that doesn't have to be written by members of the Writers Guild. And the cost of doing a scripted show has continued to rise over the last five years. While unscripted shows, it's not the same. You can make them on the cheap, and they rate at this point because as we've seen in the industry, linear ratings have dwindled because the way individuals watch and consume television has dramatically changed. People stream. They watch when they want, and they watch however much they want.

SIMON: And what does that do to the status of the strike? Because it seems to me the more the unscripted shows succeed, is it making it more difficult for the writers to latch on with properties if there's going to be fewer productions even when production resumes?

GOLDBERG: I don't think that the rise in unscripted is going to hurt the writers because there is always going to be a demand for the next "Ted Lasso," for the next "Succession." These are our hit shows that bring awards, recognition and drive tune-in and subscribers. There's always going to be a demand for original stories.

SIMON: Any indication that any kind of settlement is at hand based on your reporting?

GOLDBERG: Well, the AMPTP and the negotiating committee from the Writers Guild have not gotten back to the table since a strike was declared in early May. Right now there is no date for the Writers Guild and the studios and streamers to get back to the negotiating table. So your guess is as good as mine right now.

SIMON: This looks like a fall full of reruns.

GOLDBERG: Well, reruns and unscripted shows. And that's what you've seen. The longer that the strike goes on, the next victim will be the fall schedule. So no new episodes of "Law & Order" and so forth until well after the strike is over.

SIMON: Our family saw the last episode of "Ted Lasso" and loved it.


SIMON: I hope all those writers have good and rewarding work to do very soon.

GOLDBERG: I do, too. It's a good creative group for a really lovely show that came along at just the right time, when we needed it the most.

SIMON: Lesley Goldberg, TV editor at The Hollywood Reporter. Thanks so much for being with us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE IRONSIDES' "THE RAVEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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