The Writers’ Guild of America has proven its powerful inefficiency over the past three months. The strike has forced millions of Americans to modify their viewing habits, all while avoiding any discussion of contracts.
The writers’ strike has not yet hurt my TV watching habits. I am even willing to admit I am part of the problem that they face, having voraciously observed hours of mediocre programming online. For some reason watching free B-list programming and odd time slot shows almost seems worthwhile at four in the morning. However, certain recent developments have made me realize that the writer’s strike could have greater, potentially positive implications for our desperately bored and easily entertained population.
Ignoring the rebirth of reality TV, the strike has resulted in an obvious loss in programming. This coupled with my unwillingness to watch reruns of the same show more than three times has led me to some interesting TV choices. Most significantly, I have begun watching C-SPAN.
I like to think that I have become far more in-tune with current issues, and this is coming from someone who watched the Daily Show and the Colbert Report almost religiously. While I am glad that both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert have chosen to do the truly liberal thing and become scabs so that the public can again learn such interesting facts as the ratio of syndication times between the writers’ strike and 9/11, the changes in my viewing habits just might be permanent. Disturbingly, the educational value of TV has been improved by watching the political process happen in real time via government funded-programming. Who knows? Maybe this whole thing is a secret part of No Child Left Behind.
For example, I learned in just twenty minutes of C-SPAN that the state of Louisiana has recently put a man on death row for child rape, something that up until the 1970’s was apparently legal. I also learned that we as a nation are trying to place some sort of missile system in Poland with the claims that it will help NATO, and that the House Judiciary Committee leader recommends impeaching the Vice President.
Whether or not Representative Paul or Senators Obama, Kucinich, McCain and Clinton were notified of these changes aside, all three of those facts naturally made me think back to the only other set of programming that has remained constant throughout these desperate times, namely, campaign coverage. While conspiracy theories are as uncompelling as ever, it is slightly coincidental that the writers’ strike has forced so many Americans to watch the daily news during the presidential campaign season.
Without writers to contrive their every phrase, even traditional Hollywood events have been canceled. Now, in lieu of watching all the pretty people in fabulous clothes talk about themselves and their accomplishments at awards ceremonies, we can turn on the TV and watch balding men in generic suits and badly matched spray-tan discuss each other’s failures.
The Golden Globes’ coverage this week was replaced by the Michigan primary, and half the Democratic candidates weren’t even participating (although I am sure both Kucinich and Giuliani are thrilled to see their names back on any sort of ballot result lists). Even actors have realized that the only way to get on TV is by standing next to a politician. Even those venerable political sages Oprah and Chuck Norris have thrown their influence behind candidates.
One has to wonder how long the writers’ strike can hold out before people just lose interest. Grey’s Anatomy can only tease the population with episodes spread out through the season for so long before people will start to look elsewhere. I am sure that we can resurrect some sort of a torrid love triangle between presidential candidates, or have an Iraqi general get engaged to a terminally ill American volunteer.
I am humbled by the power of the writer’s guild. I have never heard as many people discussing the intricacies of Medicare reform, the Department of Education, or the appropriate cost of a trial attorney’s haircut as I have over the past ten weeks.
So if the writers were attempting to stimulate political discourse in this country after eight rather stagnant years, then congratulations, they have succeeded. However, if the goal was to get a raise, they might want to rethink things. At this point it looks like political speech writer will become a more lucrative career aspiration than writing for TV.