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Late Night Shows Go Dark in First Fallout From Writers’ Strike

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Hundreds of union members occupied entire blocks of Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, just hours after a union representing thousands of TV and filmmakers announced they were going on strike.

Writers gathered outside the NBCUniversal event on Fifth Avenue, chanting “No Contracts, No Content,” holding signs with slogans such as “Pencils Down!!!” and “Spoiler alert: we will win.”

“These companies are completely destroying our industry,” said Tony Kushner, an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter of films like “Lincoln” and “Favellmans.” Speaking from Pickett Line, referring to Hollywood studios.

It echoed in the picket lines outside major Los Angeles studios. felt most acutely, and quickly darkened.

On Tuesday afternoon, NBC issued a statement that the upcoming edition of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will repeat from April. “Rachel Nights with Seth Meyers” canceled a show that was scheduled to feature an interview with actress Rachel Weisz and replaced it with a rerun from February.

New episodes of the late-night show hosted by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel have also been suspended. served. NBC said it would “repeat the broadcast until further notice,” raising the possibility that the show will not be able to finish its 48th season with a finale.

How long the late-night talk show won’t air is an open question. During the final strike in 2007, the late-night show was gradually revived after about two months, even though the writers were still picketing. (That strike lasted his 100 days.)

Kimmel, ABC’s late-night host, paid his staff out of pocket during the strike. his savings.

David Letterman, who owned the CBS late-night show through production company Worldwide Pants, struck a deal with the Writers Guild of America to allow the writers to return to the show.

Other hosts whose shows were owned by media companies had no such luck. Mr. O’Brien had to resort to gimmicks to pass the time, such as spinning a wedding ring on his desk. Set a timer in the process.

“The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno infuriated WGA officials by writing his own monologue joke. “Jews, Christians, Muslims walked into the bar,” Leno said in his opening monologue, which lasted nearly 10 minutes. “Jews are telling Muslims that there is a writer’s strike and I don’t know what they are talking about.”

Late-night hosts and their top producers have been holding group calls in recent weeks, according to a person briefed on the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is sensitive, and how they would respond in the event of a strike. is being adjusted.

Unlike the so-called Midnight War hostilities of the 1990s, the host nations have made concerted efforts to demonstrate friendly, if still competitive, relations. When James Corden signed off of ‘The Late Late Show’ last week, recorded segment Mr. Colbert, Mr. Fallon, Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Myers all came together.

Myers, host of NBC’s 12:30 a.m. show, hinted at the devastation of the final strike of the segment late last week.

“It’s not just writers who are affected,” Myers said. web-only video“It affects all the incredible non-writing staff on these shows.”

He added that he was a proud member of the WGA and felt strongly that what the writers were asking for was “not unreasonable.”

“If you can’t see me next week, please know that it won’t be easy. I will miss you too,” he said.

The production process for a scripted TV show or film can take months to a year or more, so the strike will have to go on for quite some time before viewers start to influence the scripted TV show or film. I have. But the mere fact that many productions came to a sudden halt was a blow to an industry that had already been rocked in recent years by the pandemic and sweeping technological change.

The biggest problem for writers is salary. They say that despite the rapid growth of television production over the past decade, compensation has stagnated. The unions representing writers, the eastern and western chapters of the Writers Guild of America, said, “Corporate action is creating a gig economy within the union workforce and their steadfastness in this negotiation.” The stance betrayed a commitment to further devalue the union.” writing profession. ”

WGA leaders called the moment “existential” and argued that “the survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation.”

The Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance, which negotiates on behalf of Hollywood companies, said in a statement shortly before the strike was announced that its proposal included “generous increases in compensation for writers.”

According to the studio, the main sticking point has to do with union proposals requiring companies to place a certain number of writers on TV shows for a certain period of time “whether necessary or not.”

“We are very far apart, both philosophically and practically,” WGA negotiating committee chairman Chris Keyser said in an interview early Tuesday morning.

The past decade has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of scripted TV shows airing in the United States during what is often referred to as Peak TV. But the writer said their salaries have stagnated.

In the days of network television, a writer could get work on a show with 20 episodes or more per season and earn a steady living for a year. But in the streaming era, the episode order dropped to eight or 12, and the median weekly salary for writers his producers dropped slightly, the WGA said.

“They make it impossible for young writers to make a living,” said Kushner, a playwright and screenwriter. “Our wages have been falling since the last strike.”

The writer also wants to fix the formula for residual payments overturned by streaming. Until a few years ago, writers could receive a balance every time a show was licensed through syndication or DVD sales. However, global streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon are ditching these distribution arms and paying a fixed balance instead.

For now, the writer’s creative energies are directed exclusively at Pickett Sign. A writer held up a sign outside an NBCUniversal event that read, “If you don’t pay your writer, you’re ruining the ‘inheritance’.”

brooks burns contributed to the report.

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