DAVID BIANCULLI

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Supporting the Strike, One Frame at a Time
November 24, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
Ordinarily, the biggest weapon in a TV writer's arsenal, when a point needs to be made, is the national soapbox of his or her television show. But when you're a writer on strike, you can't even pick up your mightier-than-a-sword pen. So what's a writer-producer to do?

The creative forces behind two prime-time sitcoms, Two and a Half Men on CBS and 30 Rock on NBC, have found ways to express their voices sneakily. Quickly. Almost subliminally.

For a decade now, writer-producer Chuck Lorre has been using the production-company logo space at the end of his shows to present weekly printed messages to his viewers. To read them, you have to hit pause, at just the right moment, on your VCRs or DVRs - but it's worth it.

United We Stand signUsually, these two-second missives fill the entire screen - but the one in this week's Two and a Half Men, the 195th such vanity card since Lorre introduced first tacked one onto the end of Dharma & Greg, was a mere three words long.

Its brief, defiant message: "United we stand."

And in the most recent episode of 30 Rock, a strike joke was inserted into the show, clearly and cleverly written and produced before the Writers Guild of America declared a work stoppage November 5.

30 Rock strike crawlMichael Schneider of Variety caught this one, and even provided photographic evidence. It occurred during a TV-show-within-a-TV-show scene in which Edie Falco, guest starring as a Democratic politician dating Alec Baldwin's 30 Rock NBC executive Jack Donaghy, appeared on MSNBC. As Jack watched her on his TV set, the MSNBC news crawl at the bottom of the screen spelled out the following fast-moving joke:

"NEWS CRAWL AFFECTED BY WRITERS STRIKE - USING REPEAT TEXT FROM PREVIOUS SEASON."

Good catch, Michael. Click here to read his original article, and here for access to all 195, and counting, of Chuck Lorre's vanity cards. Among my favorites: Vanity cards #25, 99, 148, 169, 187.

In one of them, he admits to scrambling for ideas to fill the endless, unstoppable vanity platform he created without knowing how time-consuming and challenging it would become. I get it, Chuck. And for me, this is only Blog #20.

 
 
 
 
 
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