Writers for many Hollywood studios are on strike, with the Writers Guild of America picketing outside many major studios for compensation from streaming projects, higher wages (most have part or full-time jobs besides writing), and protection from the artificial intelligence boom that’s currently plaguing the literary and film worlds.
Seems like reasonable requests, but in the ever-increasing quest to make 2008: The Sequel we’ve hit the point of a strike and you’ll notice the effects soon, so let’s see what lessons that strike taught us and just what shows it brought premature deaths to.
Canceled shows are just the start here unfortunately, as many don’t realize just how much grinds to a halt in the industry when the creative nozzle is turned off. We’ll get into the far-reaching implications and those who helped to lighten the strain a little as well, but starting off…
Heroes was probably one of the earliest signs of just how important the writers were to the success of a show. While it was written collaboratively and planned by “volumes” which were just main arcs throughout the season, Heroes was cut short and lost eleven episodes as a result of the strike. While in a lot of cases, eleven episodes being cut could just mean filler and side plots that could be tied together in an episode, Heroes needed every single one for the intricately laid plotlines from the partially aired second season to work.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and season two was cut short with only one out of the four planned volumes for the season made, and a reduced episode order from the series after that which, along with shuffling writers in and out (Bryan Fuller had a bad time in particular during this strike), would lead to a mess of a plot that included things like Nathan/Sylar becoming the same person, the Shanti virus going… nowhere, and other things like Hiro losing all control of his powers due to a tumor. Everything listed probably could have been great too, assuming they were given the time and budget to realize the writers’ vision.
While The Office didn’t necessarily suffer from the strike, it is one of the better examples of solidarity between the writers and cast of a show. Steve Carell refused to cross picket lines and called into production, saying he was sick from “engorged testicles”. Dick jokes go far, no matter the situation.
Remember what I said about Bryan Fuller having a particularly shitty time after the strike? Hell, Bryan Fuller being a showrunner is guaranteed about two good seasons at least before the network eventually sends him off somewhere else or cancels the show entirely. He had already been through the cancellation of Dead Like Me a few years prior, now he had a critical darling after only one season that finished airing just weeks after the strike began and season two being iffy at best.
Season two did end up happening, but then fate said “That’s enough” and the show was canceled with the network airing episodes months apart before only airing the final three almost six months after the last episode to promote the DVD release. That’s honestly just a dick move no matter how you look at it.
Not every show suffered from the strike, thankfully. Breaking Bad had some delays due to the writers’ strike when finishing the last few episodes, causing a shortened first season to air instead and saving two characters from an early sendoff.
Seriously, by the time they got around to writing season two and the first few episodes had aired, creator/writer Vince Gilligan had completely changed his mind on two characters’ deaths, originally intending to have both Jesse and Hank killed off. Take a second and picture Breaking Bad without those two, both balance Walter White’s scale and rise to villainy. There’s no story without them.
This wasn’t a victim. It was a curse. Writers stopped writing so Fox looked for anything already written. Anything, as you can probably tell, included something that was so heinously terrible that Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama created an entirely new series because he felt he owed fans after this disaster. I don’t know how to visualize the ratio of Dragonball: Evolutions awfulness to Dragonball Super’s absolutely batshit power scaling at this point.
Just intercut a Shameless season one rewatch with Evolution and tell me how Justin Chatwin and Emmy Rossum didn’t have the same chemistry there.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Written based on a loose structure that was essentially “here’s where shit blows up, wing it from there” and it shows. Do you know how shitty a movie has to be for Michael f*cking Bay to disavow it? THIS MOVIE HAD ROBOT TESTICLES.
Not a result of the strike, but a precursor. Origins was thrown into production not long before the strike was approved by WGA members, without a completed script and with little time penciled in for rewrites after the strike ended. It’s obvious from the final film, which gave us such greats as mouthless Deadpool, shiny PS2 claws that looked barely different from the pre-VFX cut that leaked early, and just the beginning of the X-Men timeline debacle.
Conan O’Brien and David Letterman
Late Night shows were one of the first victims of the strike in 07/08, with writers often in early every day and rewriting jokes until the moment the show would air. Without the writers to keep things afloat most just went off the air and were replaced by reruns, with the consequences being a ripple effect on the show’s production staff. Conan and Letterman stepped in to pay their employees’ salaries out of pocket until having to go back on the air or risk all the staff being laid off a month before the strike finally ended.
David Letterman reached a separate agreement with the WGA, allowing his show to go on unaffected since he produced his own show. Conan, meanwhile, being the stretched-out leprechaun he’s always been, filled shows with improvised moments and some of the dumbest ways to waste airtime ever all while voicing his support for the writers on air. Highlights include his fifty-one-second record for spinning his wedding ring.
There’s such a delightfully massive shift between NBC Conan and Not-NBC Conan. He made an entire month of television without writers all while giving a middle finger to the studio, and it lead to him being free to make the weird comedy he excels at.
I can’t stress enough how much writers contribute to the foundations of film and television. Without writers, there are no stories. Someone can throw a prompt into chatGPT and get a generic as hell script with some of the most robotic dialogue around and make it into a show all they want, but it won’t hit the heights that real human minds can take it. Behind every one of your favorite films, shows, books, comics… the list goes on but they all have writers behind them with passion for the stories being told.
Support writers, because we’re passionate about telling stories, and are only asking to be able to focus on telling these stories without worrying about how to pay bills or eat. If any writers you love have work you can buy directly (hint hint nudge nudge) and support them in any way possible. Solidarity now ensures better conditions for not only us but those that come after us. Kick ass out there!