A big ol' 2008 to 2009 omnibus post

I got behind on my posting over the holidays and a whole lot of things have passed without comment. In no particular order, here's comment...

1. There will not be a SAG strike.

SAG was the first union I joined, right out of college. I am no longer in any way active as an actor, but I will always treasure my old SAG card. The union meant a lot to me. I have read the AMPTP proposals and there probably should be a SAG strike, or at least a sturdy and undivided YES vote authorizing a strike. Such a vote might be the only way to force some sort of meet-in-the-middle provisions that could be acceptable to SAG.

But that vote will never happen.

SAG has been a hopelessly, viciously divided union for many years now. There is no way the current leadership could get enough votes from the opposition for a strike authorization. And though it is true that this leadership brought the hatred of a large proportion of the union on themselves by denying the merger with AFTRA in 2003 on political (if our side didn't propose it, we ain't gonna approve it) grounds, well -- get over it, people.

SAG is a great big powerful union. They should be able to speak softly to the AMPTP while holding one hell of a big stick in the threat of an industry-halting strike. Problem is, everyone knows there's no stick. So the current stalemate might drag on, and on, and on.

I don't know how this is going to end. I just know, there will be no strike.

2. NBC's managing-for-margins strategy is dead wrong knowing what little we know about the future.

The one thing we know with pretty damn good certainty is that consumers in the near future will have many more choices in where, when, how and what they watch. I've already said bye-bye to network schedules and television screens and hello to my DVR and Slingbox. The even-younger generation will laugh at the very idea of scheduled entertainment. My three year-old nephew gets super pissed-off when he can't rewind or pause something, or call it up out nowhere whenever he feels like watching it.

Which does not mean that networks won't matter. When faced with a widening array of choices, people are going to want some kind of gatekeeper -- a BRAND they trust -- as a starting point when making decisions. Everything in the future is going to be about the brand. Define it NOW. Polish it. Ensure that people know, "When I want to watch a quality show like XXX -- I need to tune to YYY.beamedstraightintoyourhead.com."

The cable channels are pretty good at this. The networks have made some weird decisions lately, but I still know, mostly, where to tune for what I like.

And very little I like is on NBC.

It's not that I don't like their choices. I don't expect everyone to program for me. Sometimes a premise isn't something that interests me. So what. I respect the quality of lots of shows that I don't myself watch.

But the premises of lots of the new NBC shows did interest me. I just didn't like the shows. Some of them might have passed muster on the old Saturday afternoon syndie Action Pack. But the quality wasn't even close to what I expect from a network show. They were made on the cheap and oh boy could you tell. So now, in my mind, the NBC brand stands for cheap, lightweight shit.

NBC claims to be crying all the way to the bank: cheap is good and the margins are working for them. I say, FOR NOW. A once-phenomenal brand is shedding lustre nightly and I'm not sure they'll have time to polish it back up before the whole television-watching paradigm shifts and leaves NBC behind.

Maybe NBC will surprise us with a slate of innovative quality programming for 2010. I hope they do. This network gave me Law & Order. All of you who think it's old-fashioned now, remember that when it started, Matlock and Murder She Wrote were on the air. And ER -- watch that first season again and remember nothing remotely like it had been seen on television before. And Friends, and...

Aargh. If NBC were doing Friends today it would be shot on the cheap as a Belgian co-production about five guys and the stripper they sometimes hang out with. But that's a whole other issue I have with NBC right now. Don't get me started.

3. The January season is upon us -- hooray! There are so many new and returning series out there. My Tivo and I are giddy with excitement.

I am, of course, looking forward to Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Or hoping to look forward to it. Really, really hoping. Hoping SOOOO hard. But not expecting much. I know a lot has changed since the pilot script I read, but to me the changes sound like they've made the basic problem I had with the old script even worse.

A show about a personality-free character who takes on a lot of different cool roles makes for a neat hour-long script. And it was a NEAT script: short, sweet, exciting, full of lots of fun twists and great dialogue. But it's not a series. Imagine watching a second episode about a personality-free character who takes on a lot of different cool roles. And then a third. And then ten more. And then twenty-two next season...

The script hinted that they were moving toward lead character Echo developing her own personality and trying to find the truth about herself as the series progresses. I would have loved to see A LOT more of that in the first episode. But what I hear about the series now is that we're going to get even less -- and more about the Dollhouse itself and Echo's actiony adventures. Yawn.

There's no way I'm going to like a series about a lead character with no personality. It's just not possible.

Though, if ANYONE can make the impossible happen... I'm still hoping.

4. The Disney/ABC Fellowship

See how I buried the lead? Hmm. Wonder what that means...

I'm not a fellow this year. Sort of. Yet. At all. I don't know... I'm an alternate. If one of the actual fellows fails their background check I might get a call. If I do, I will not bury that lead.

One does wonder what a writer needs to do to fail a background check. Lying about a criminal background is the usual. But for writers -- is it more likely to be lying about HAVING a criminal record when in fact you don't? Didn't some writer just get in trouble for claiming gang-banger status when she turned out to be an honors student from Beverly Hills?

Whatever happens, the ABC people were quite wonderful and have promised that they will be in touch as they are planning to include me in some of the upcoming fellowship programs.

So, here's to lots more to write about in 2009!!

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