How Will the Writers’ Strike Affect the Soaps?
On May 2, members of the Writers Guild of America — the professional union that represents over 11,000 television and movie writers — went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers after the two sides failed to reach a new agreement. As a result, many television shows will cease production this week as the scribes who pen fictitious storylines for characters and write quippy monologues for hosts instead head to the picket line.
According to IndieWire, at the crux of the strike was that the scribes in the union were arguing for fair compensation in a streaming-focused atmosphere where, the WGA said, current business practices have devalued writers’ contributions and undermined their working conditions. “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on [artificial intelligence] for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession,” the WGA said in a statement announcing the strike. “No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
The WGA strike has widespread ramifications for the entertainment industry, as it affects programs broadcast on major networks, streaming series, and potentially even some films. And yes, that even includes daytime dramas.
So does that mean that soap operas will cease production until the strike is resolved? Maybe, maybe not. While the soaps likely have a stockpile of fully produced episodes to put on the air and completed scripts to continue to tape, those won’t last forever in a genre that typically airs a new show five days a week. But there are multiple alternatives to avoid putting the soaps on hiatus.
During the last writers’ strike, back in November 2007, the soaps continued to churn out new episodes while most other programs halted production entirely. One way the soaps did so was thanks to WGA members who crossed the picket line (called “scabs”) during the three-month-long walkout, or by employing new, non-union writers to pen storylines and dialogue. There were also experienced union members who went “financial core” — giving up their WGA membership and all of its benefits to continue working as a writer on union shows. (Writers on news programs and reality shows are not part of the WGA, so therefore those productions are not affected by the strike.)
Since the soap operas are taped several weeks in advance, burning through the available new episodes is not as immediate an issue for GENERAL HOSPITAL, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS, THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL, and DAYS OF OUR LIVES as it is for primetime programs, or quick-turnaround shows like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and late-night talk shows. Hopefully, both the WGA and the AMPTP will quickly come to an agreement that benefits both sides and we won’t have to lose a single day of our favorite daytime dramas!
Keep checking back with SoapsInDepth.com for this developing story.