Okay, maybe they need writers after all

After my last blog post, where I said that the longer the late-night TV hosts go sans writers the more polished they will get, I must now perhaps eat those words. Maybe it’s more of a hit-or-miss affair, where some nights they’ve got it and some nights they don’t.

“The Daily Show” — sorry, I mean “A Daily Show” — was decidedly a miss last night. Jon Stewart clearly looked uncomfortable as he struggled through his material lampooning the most recent campaign-related TV clips. While even a lackluster Stewart is still worth watching, this was clearly not his best night, as he could not get the audience fully into the show or over the threshold of the restrained-chuckle level. At one point he even confessed, “Awfully quiet in here…”

And then his interview of Liberal Fascism author Jonah Goldberg went 18 minutes instead of the alloted six, so it had to be cut way down, with Stewart doing a spliced-in intro before the interview saying that it was “choppy as hell. We did the best we could.”

So it was a weird show, and not one of the series’ highlights.

Actually, the best part was the (heavily edited) interview, where Stewart went head-to-head with Goldberg, who seemed to have no limit of implausible -ism-related labels that proved useless. One of the funniest interview questions I’ve ever heard came when Stewart asked him, “How is organic food fascist?”

Further evidence of my belief that some people are willing to pointlessly politicize anything.

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16 comments on this post

Dave
Thursday, January 17, 2008, 4:19 pm (UTC -6)

Totally agree! That was one of the wierdest interviews I’ve seen on the Daily Show.

Michael
Thursday, January 17, 2008, 6:10 pm (UTC -6)

Is it just me, or does the RSS feed only get updated sporadically?

Brendan
Friday, January 18, 2008, 12:09 am (UTC -6)

I didn’t notice anything off about the show, other than the interview – which clearly was out of control because the guest was insane.

red pill
Friday, January 18, 2008, 6:27 pm (UTC -6)

that intervew was realy wired. very funny tho. the guest came off as a bit insain, and by his own fault. stuewt had to do hardly anything.

Jason
Monday, January 21, 2008, 4:34 am (UTC -6)

Everyone loves to bash the rich, and hope for the ‘poor’ writers to get ahead.

I say, fire all the writers and start over. Give them a $50k starting salary or whatever was average that I’m told and stop complaining.

Otherwise the writers need to support another system. Work.. within.. you.. salary.. range..

Stef
Monday, January 21, 2008, 7:25 am (UTC -6)

Jason: Remember you said that when you are asked to work for free, and you boss tells you it is advertising.

“Jason, you are working late for the next three weeks. No extra pay or time off though.”
“Oh Boss, can’t you just fire me and start over? I want to Work.. within.. you.. salary.. range.. but I don’t actually know what that means.”

Jamahl Epsicokhan
Monday, January 21, 2008, 8:54 am (UTC -6)

Re: Jason. Yes, everyone likes to bash the rich, because they assume they think like you do: Simply cut off any resource that causes a stir, while the people at the top, who are arguably no more talented or hard-working than many people at the bottom, walk away with all the money. Yeah, that sounds fair.

I will say that many unions are not always what they’re cracked up to be (there was a unionizing effort at my place of employment last year and I wanted nothing to do with it), but when groups like the writers are clearly getting screwed over by producers who aren’t interested in sharing the benefits — well, you need a union to put some pressure on them.

Will it work? Hard to say. Will many writers lose their job over this? Probably. Will shows get canceled and the industry suffer? Without a doubt. But the producers have plenty of fault in this, and “fire the strikers” is a simpleminded response at best.

Jason
Monday, January 21, 2008, 10:12 am (UTC -6)

Ok, ‘fire the strikers’ may be over the top, but I still think it would be a little more interesting that way.

Just offer the market wage for the job. If it’s $50k, then that’s what they should go for at start.

Anyone making that little is probably only paying dues though and isn’t really working on anything in production however.

Times aren’t great, and it might be a good idea for them to take a heavy pay cut for a future % of online sales.

I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly who makes what, or who is hurting or benefiting from the strike. And it’s hard to tell who will benefit the most from the negotiations.

I think the writers are probably reaching too far, and my sympathy with them being ‘screwed’ is weak.

Dude
Monday, January 21, 2008, 4:53 pm (UTC -6)

The writers want more money in times when scripted programs are losing viewership and American Idol, American Gladior, Americas Top Model, heck most likely a dozen more ‘American something’ shows pop up? If they want a better deal then I’m all for negotiating one, but they weren’t negotiating months ahead and should deal with the situation better than run out as soon as they can and leave real people ‘below the line’ without a job as well. The TV writers don’t care for these people but suddenly want them to support the cause. The producers were right not to budge to those ridiculous demands and can plaster the rest of the season with repeats and reality. Who was it that said “get the **** out and take your Ferrari with you”? I surely don’t feel sorry for those writers, not that I sympathize with the producers but jeez what a mess…

Stef
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 9:18 am (UTC -6)

^You’ve both made good points above. But aren’t a lot of writers under short contracts? That is the problem, their contract states “You will do XYZ scripts for $50K per year and any promotional work”. The contract writers then decided that “Any promotional work” can be anything they damn well like.

So now they have a contracted amount of work, for a set payment, and a whole bunch of unpaid work thrown on top. So the “market wage” idea does not stand up.

Of course you can argue that the contracts need to be better worded to cover exactly what this extra work will entail…

Destructor
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 4:39 pm (UTC -6)

I saw this ep last night and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, after reading your post. I’m suprised they didn’t pull the interview into the second third of the show, it seemed pretty amusing.

Josh
Sunday, January 27, 2008, 7:23 pm (UTC -6)

I think some people are missing the point of what the writers are asking for. Here are a few things to remember: in any given year, 60% of the writer’s guild members aren’t employed. So while the average yearly sallary for a *working* writer is around 80k, the average sallary for all WGA members is actuall $5k.

But more importantly, this isn’t, I think, really even about their *wage*. It’s about residuals. If you write a book and it gets published in another medium, another country, another language, etc., you get paid for that. Similarly with songwriting, recordings, etc. Currently the writers write an episode, and when it’s shown in re-runs, they get a small residual check in the mail (which is how most non-employed writers *survive*).

So when the studio says, “Write these 8-minute long ‘web episodes'” and puts all the episodes that the writers have written online, the writers say, “Okay, first, are we going to be paid for the 8-minute original material we wrote? And second, are we going to be paid residuals for our work now appearing online.” The producers then say, “No, it’s just promotional work, there’s no money in it.” Meanwhile they charge MILLIONS of dollars in advertising revenue.

The producers then say to the writers, “Look, it’s a new medium. We don’t know if there’s *any* money in it, so here, have a $250 one-off fee.” The producers then say to their stockholders, “We’re RAKING it in. Keep buying stock!” Which they are. Internet and new media is worth millions to the producers and is only going to continue growing as the inevitable merge between television and internet becomes consolidated.

So the writer’s, I think, are more than justified in striking. They *wrote* what the producers are selling. And they wrote it on the understanding (in their contract) that they would be paid for writing it as a *television* program, not a multi-million-dollar online business as well. If that’s the case, they deserve residuals from that work, which they *created*.

So try to remember that, first, crucially, writers aren’t rich – most of them aren’t working! – and second, what the writers are asking for isn’t unreasonable. They were hired to write a product for a certain medium at a certain wage, then this product was used in another medium and made the producers a shitload of money. Given that the writers created that product, they deserve a piece of the pie when the producers decide to use it in another medium. That’s what they want in their contract, as it wasn’t there last time.

Cheers
Josh
(not in the WGA; or even in the USA)

Chris J.
Monday, January 28, 2008, 9:09 pm (UTC -6)

Damn, Goldberg was roasted.

I saw the interview recently. It was probably the highlight of the entire show; I hate to say it, but the show as a whole probably would have been a bit better if they cut out some of the other parts to make space for the full interview. It wasn’t so bad though, just not up to Jon’s usual standards.

The man being interviewed has a rare talent at taking strings of very disconnected facts and making completely implausible connections, and then taking himself seriously.

Josh
Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 3:30 am (UTC -6)

Yeah, it was like he was approaching it from a purely academic level. Ie., ‘Progressivism’ used to be linked to totalitarian communism/collectivism, so when Hillary Clinton calls herself a ‘progressive’ then she must be saying *that* was what she is in favour of. Rather than using ‘progressive’ because ‘liberal’ has become a dirty word, Goldberg says she uses ‘progressive’ because she wants to take away everyone’s individual rights and turn the whole country into a Stalinist-era gulag. What an idiot.

Stef
Thursday, January 31, 2008, 2:31 am (UTC -6)

I saw a few minutes of the Daily Show (Or “A Daily Show” as it was re-branded at the time). Stewart was cringing.

Stef
Thursday, January 31, 2008, 2:32 am (UTC -6)

^ I meant to say that I used to watch it before the strike when I had the chance, and this was the first one since.

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