DAVID BIANCULLI

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Day 87: American TV Held Hostage
January 29, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
We're closing in on the start of the fourth month of the Writers Guild of America strike - 87 days so far, and counting, in which TV has done without most of its writers, and viewers are having to do without much of their regular television fare. But with the Oscars only 26 days away, there's reason to hope that an end to the strike really is in sight.

Or, at least, that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't just fire from the latest negotiation-table train wreck.

Oscars.jpg

Both sides, at this point, agree on one overriding point: No one, right now, wants to stop the Academy Awards from being televised in its usual form. Not the actors, who thus far have been the writers' most powerful and visible ally. Not the studios, which would lose scores of millions in promotional opportunities for their films. Certainly not ABC, which owns the broadcast rights and sells the advertising time.

And not even the writers, who don't want to alienate the actors. The WGA could give the Oscars an interim agreement and call off the WGA picket lines, as with Sunday's Screen Actors Guild awards and the Feb. 10 Grammy Awards - but this is the time to negotiate with leverage, and both sides, for a change, are both talking and listening.

My sources in Los Angeles, who throughout this strike have seldom been in agreement about any predictions regarding its conclusion, now say pretty much the same thing. Either the strike will be settled in the next two weeks - before the Grammys, basically - or it's going to be lengthy, and ugly, and potentially crushing. The worse the economy gets, the nastier things are likely to get, on both sides.

But for now, at least one bright spot is on the immediate TV horizon. In two days, ABC presents the season premiere of Lost.

The episode, based on the promos, suggests the promise of rescue and the threat of false hope. Let's hope it's not an analogy that extends to the current TV writers' strike. This particular island - a desperate, lonely place populated by Dance War and American Gladiators - is one from which we viewers would all love to escape.

Vote us off... please.

 
 
 
 
 
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