United Hollywood

While reading Cynthia Littleton’s TV on Strike: How Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet, I became interested to see how the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike effected popular shows at the time. In chapter 5, titled “United Showrunners,” I found it interesting how guild members used the Internet to their advantage, just as the studios did. Little writes on page 93:

 “As the October 31 contract expiration deadline approached, the group of about a half-dozen writers realized that WGA members would need a forum for sharing news and information, for discussion and debate, as well as for venting and sounding off. To do so, they harnessed the same tools and technology that lay at the heart of the guild’s contract-negotiation fight” (Littleton, p. 93).

banner2os4However, I think that the key differences between the two uses of the Internet is that these WGA members turned to the Internet to inform the vast public of the unfair contractual circumstances they were fighting against—not to increase wealth or profit. The most prominent blog that became the forum for WGA members to debate and discuss, as Littleton mentions, was the United Hollywood blog. In a further attempt to reach the vast public, they settled upon the name United Hollywood as a conscious decision to represent all who may have been facing difficulties with reaching contractual agreements with the AMPTP (Littleton, p. 93). The use of the Internet as an outlet for strike members to potentially inform those who frequented it, was a smart decision on United Hollywood‘s part, because it is possible that the digital audience they received also frequently used the Internet to watch television programming in its new form. Any uniformed consumer had the chance to decide their own feelings about the 2007 strike; they could ignore and continue to consume their favorite television shows at their own convince online, or they could hopefully support the writers. United Hollywood offered, as Littleton addresses:

“A steady stream of news, analysis, and logistical information, as well as links to and critiques of other media coverage of the strike and relevant topics. It carried a range of essay and commentary articles, mostly from striking writers. The United Hollywood team also produced a series of short web videos, including The Office is Closed, which featured Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, and other members of The Office staff picketing outside a planned location shoot for the show on the second day of the strike” (Littleton, p. 93).

Using The Office writers and staff may have potentially furthered the support received, as everybody (with a computer) could to watch television actors and staff workers stand up for what they believed was fair. These web videos United Hollywood had to offer, helped to personify all the heard-about “strikers”. It allowed the community to understand that these were human-beings with families, and bills to pay. As Littleton describes it:

“United Hollywood helped distill the issues at stake in the WGA negotiations, and it helped put a human face on the mass of nearly eleven thousand striking film and TV writers” (Littleton, p. 93-93).

BreakingBadOn a slightly different note: this chapter made me curious to find out which television programs were dramatically affected by the 2007 WGA strike, and I found something of personal interest that I had not known. I am confident that some of us in this class are fans of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, which premiered in January of 2008. The WGA strike disrupted the production the last two episodes of an intended nine, allowing only seven to be filmed. During an interview with Breaking Bad Insider Podcast, Gilligan revealed, that before the pilot even premiered, one of his original ideas was to kill off Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) at the end of the season 1, episode 9. It is believed that part of what saved this character was the WGA strike, since it put the show’s production to a halt, and Gilligan was given more time to realize the mistake it would truly be. Gilligan solidifies his reasoning in a cast interview with The Paley Center for Media, suggesting that it was not solely because of the strike. I highly recommend taking a look at this entertaining cast interview.

Littleton, Cynthia. TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2013. Print.

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