The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, now in its fifth week, has exacted a serious toll. Crew members not lucky enough to work for Letterman, Leno, or O’Brien — the late-night hosts who are paying their non-writing staffs out of pocket — are seeing their savings dwindle. As Adam Reilly pointed out recently, people who depend on The Daily Show for their news may have no idea that Rudy Giuliani paid for trysts with his mistress using taxpayer cash. But worst of all, idle TV screenwriters Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller have been spending way too much time loafing around Panera Bread.
They’re not the only Guild members spending their days eating Bacon Turkey Bravos as they blog and blog some more. When not on the picket lines, many TV wordsmiths have opted to make their cases online. Former Simpsons writer Ken Levine’s blog sees parallels between studio honchos and Mr. Burns. Some of Letterman’s belletrists post videos and comic strips at lateshowwritersonstrike.com. (That site offers a privileged glimpse inside the negotiating room: “WGA REPRESENTATIVE: All we’re asking for is a small percentage of the billions our work has made for you. STUDIO REPRESENTATIVE: Go fuck yourself.”)
Green and Miller — who’ve written for Letterman in the past, in addition to more recent stints on Comedy Central’s The Showbiz Show with David Spade, CBS’s The Class, and Fox’s Unhitched — have a blog, too. It’s called “What We’re Not Writing," and it’s exactly what it says it is.
“We thought it was important that the studios know not only that we’re not writing,” says Green from LA, “but what we’re not writing: what kind of fantastic blockbusters and hit TV shows and dinner-time background noise that America is missing out on, now that the strike is happening.”
Among the brilliant ideas, one every day, lost forever thanks to studio cupidity:
“OMG, JFK, WTF? — A modern re-imagining of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, set in high school.
“Wait, What’d I Miss? — A 24-style real-time action series in which all the key plot points happen during the commercial breaks.
“Around the World — Drama series that follows six people from diverse cultures and backgrounds who get together every Sunday and watch The Amazing Race.
“Venti Nonfat Pumpkin Spice Latte — A character-based one-hour drama about a couple whose marriage is torn apart by the death of their son. Project would have received some promotional consideration from Starbucks.
“I’m Not There Either — Unconventional biopic of ‘The Lady in Red’ singer Chris de Burgh, featuring six actors playing the languid tunesmith at various stages of his career. (Before the strike, this project had generated considerable buzz within the de Burgh family.)”
Green says he figured showing the studio what they’re missing “would be a good negotiating tactic to bring them to their knees. Also, it gave us something to do.”
Something besides the picket line, at least: “At first everyone was expected to be picketing 20 hours a week, now they’ve reduced it to 12 hours,” he says. “Which is still a very long time to be walking around in a circle holding a sign.”