Politics of the Hollywood Writers Strike

To the extent that I’ve paid attention to the impending Hollywood writers’ strike, it’s been in terms of its effect on entertainment programming, such as possibly shortening the second season of Heroes. (That, by the way, is preferable to having the “Shades of Gray” effect that comes with amateurs writing the scripts.)

Dan Drezner notes that the initial effect of the strike, the immediate cancellation of the late night comedy-talk shows, could have a major impact on the 2008 presidential campaign. First, John McCain and Barack Obama have used those shows to great advantage, “don’t have that option for the near future, denying them free media.” Second, “The big winners are all the candidates who are vulnerable to satire…. or the favorite targets of Hollywood writers. In other words, Hillary Clinton and the entire Republican field.”

That sounds about right. With an increasing percentage of Americans getting their news primarily from late night comedians, this will dramatically reshape the dynamics of the race if it continues for a long period.

UPDATE (Dodd Harris): For anyone who’s interested in the strikers’ view, Brian K. Vaughan (LOST writer and co-producer, among many other things) explains it in greater, more personal detail than I’ve seen elsewhere:

But basically, writers are looking to negotiate modest residuals and protections for use of our TV shows and movies on the internet, where most of us will likely be getting the majority of our entertainment from in the not-too-distant future.

We’re are also asking for a share of about 8 cents — that’s eight stinkin’ pennies — for every DVD of our work sold, as opposed to the criminally insane 4 cents we receive today.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Entertainment, Popular Culture, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Yes, “writer’s strike” always screams “Shades of Gray” to me.

    And that’s not a good thing.

  2. Triumph says:

    I guess this is as good a time as any to start getting into hockey.

  3. Pablo says:

    So what happens to the writers who make up the news for Fox? I guess maybe they aren’t in the union.

  4. Boyd says:


  5. Eneils Bailey says:

    Pablo, spewing his pablum will have no comments after the writers strikes begins.
    I guess he could go to the DailyKos or some other liberal site to pick hints for comments.

  6. Pablo says:

    Hey, it was just some light attempt at some lunchtime humor. I’m actually very conservative on Wall Street/Main Street issues and could have made the same comment about, for example, the 60 Minutes piece on the Bush military records — but then the union part of the joke wouldn’t have worked. I’m just not the type of conservative who thinks that any of us are winners when Fox tries to balance other media with its own garbage. What I like about OTB is the willingness, rare on Net message boards these days, to critique one’s own side, because that is the kind of discussion that can actually lead to productive ideas. Notwithstanding the above comments, given the kind of comments I have seen elsewhere on this board from free-thinking conservatives, I’ll bet I’m not the only one who at least cracked a brief smile at the thought of the joke. Sure, the joke would get more laughs at DailyKos but then I would just be reinforcing very type of the quick-to-judge, closed-mindedness that is so rampant on the net

  7. Paul Barnes says:

    Maybe if I go on a hunger strike, I will make all those Hollywood liberals feel guilty or something and go back to work?

  8. Brian says:

    I’ve never understood why the late night talk shows are affected by the writer’s strike. What is there to write? Most of these guys started out as comedians and now they can’t handle 10 minutes of material?

    Or maybe it’s the questions they ask, like it takes a professional to come up with “So tell us about your new picture,” or “What was it like to win the World Series?”

  9. James Joyner says:

    I’ve never understood why the late night talk shows are affected by the writer’s strike. What is there to write? Most of these guys started out as comedians and now they can’t handle 10 minutes of material?

    I made the same comment to my wife yesterday morning. Heck, if it comes to that, just shorten the monologue. Or go right to the interviews.

    I could understand Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, where it’s 20 minutes of original material each night. But not the talk shows.

  10. Dodd says:

    The hosts probably act as editors of their writers’ work, but they aren’t doing the heavy lifting of not only penning monologues (which is hard work – anyone wondering at how hard 10 minutes of material can be for one person to come up with should watch Jerry Seinfeld’s biopic Comedian) but also of gaining familiarity with guests’ work and coming up with approrpriate questions to ask – and quips to make – while they’re on, plus sketches and other content (like Letterman’s Top 10 lists). It takes a room full of pros, and a cadre of runners and assistants, to do all of that five days a week.