Barring any last minute holdups, by the time you read this, the writers' strike should be over. That means the Oscar telecast – the premier Hollywood prom that no one wanted to see reduced to a hobbled version of itself (as in last month's Golden Globes ceremony) – will go on! Now the world can spin on its axis again. On a more pragmatic note, a lot of people are going back to work, and that makes everyone on both sides of the bargaining table happy.
A cursory glance at the preliminary agreement shows that the writers didn't get all that they wanted, but they got more than they had before. Jettisoned early was a demand that reality show writers and writers of animated films fall under the Writers Guild of America's purview. The biggest concession includes a system for how and when writers earn compensation for new media. The breakdown is too cumbersome to outline here, but suffice it to say that there is more than there was before, which I'm sure will please those happy to get something and irk those who don't think it is enough.
For now, the aftermath of the strike will be the talk of the industry, while the rest of us look forward to seeing series pick up from where they let off when the strike began. But don't expect to turn on the set and see brand-new shows immediately. Shows like Heroes (NBC), which relies heavily on post-production special effects, may not resume until much later in the year, perhaps till the next TV season – whenever that is. The way of doing TV was changing long before the strike began. The strike hastened the inevitable, which I believe will be a marker in TV history.
Fox's 24, with more than half of its episodes broadcast-ready, was shelved until the strike passed. However, sources indicate it may not air until next year (I suspect a January launch, following the next American Idol, as in years past). Until then, keep a lookout for TV from our neighbors to the north. NBC has already acquired The Listener, about a psychic paramedic, while CBS, ABC, and ABC Family are also considering Canadian-made series. Make no mistake: These are not development deals, as was the case with the U.S. version of The Office (which originated on BBC), but outright acquisitions. This is good for producers, as it dramatically diminishes overhead costs. Not so good for U.S.-based writers, talent, and the resultant series' staffs. Whether this will be a growing trend depends on American audiences' responses to these Canadian imports.
In the meantime, the small, small screen brims with content. A recent Multichannel News report announced that the popular snark-fest known as TelevisionWithoutPity.com will soon become an online series. Video content to accompany TVWoP's scathingly droll episode recaps and reviews of TV's most popular series as well as topical specials will launch in the next few months.
Locally, Austin-based ON Networks recently had four of its productions named among the Best New Video Podcasts of 2007 by Apple iTunes, selected from hundreds of choices. The recognized ON Networks' podcasts are: Beautiful Places, about outdoor adventures, gear, and trails, hosted by Tony Farley; Cocktails on the Fly, hosted by mixologist Alberta Straub; Food Science, hosted by Dr. Kiki Sanford; and Golf Tips, hosted by golf pro Joe Beck.
To see all Best of 2007 Podcasts, go to here, which will launch in your iTunes.
Speaking of online content and related to last week's mention of Quarterlife migrating from the Internet to NBC later this month, the upcoming South by Southwest Film Conference recently added a related panel, Quarterlife: A Wild Journey From Internet to TV, occurring Tuesday, March 11, at 5pm. Series creator Marshall Herskovitz will appear. For more information, go to www.sxsw.com/film.
Texas Community Media Summit
Besides quietly changing their name from Public Access Community Television to the more expansive ChannelAustin, the folks at Austin's community-TV station have been busy at work planning the first Texas Community Media Summit. The one-day event happens March 1, featuring keynotes and breakout sessions addressing community media in Texas, free speech, localism, inclusion and diversity, media literacy, and the value of noncommercial media. Organizers hope the summit will lead to the formation of active media alliances in Texas, as well as serve as a bridge to the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis this June. To see the full agenda, speakers, and other updates, go to www.texascommunitymedia.org/content/summit-agenda.
As always, stay tuned.