A Silver Lining

November 27, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

Let me begin by expressing the following (lest what follows be taken the wrong way): With respect to what's currently happening in Hollywood, my sympathies lie with the writers. With the exception of brain-dead movies like Transformers, it's impossible to have any kind of motion picture or TV show without the creative scribblers who put words on the paper. (Or, these days, type them into the computer.) Writers deserve more consideration than they're getting from the grasping, greedy, ego-centric bigwigs who run the studios. The scribes deserve fair royalties for every transmutation their creative collaborations undergo, whether it's on the big screen, the little screen, or the computer screen.

Rumor has it that a deal is near, and the writers could be back to work before Christmas. Maybe that's true; maybe it isn't. But let's ponder a little... Suppose the strike continues to drag on. What if this were to last all the way through February? As network television is engulfed by the tsunami of reality TV and movie productions see the looming slowdown coming like a slow motion avalanche, is there anything good, no matter how small, that could come of this? Yes! And it has to do with the second biggest television event of the year. (Writers are not needed for the #1 event of the year. Bostonians have already written that script.)

I'm referring to the show that annually makes us ask the timeless questions: "Will it ever end? Will I fall asleep before they announce the big winners?" (Note: With the Internet and DVRs, the issue of falling asleep has become irrelevant. You can catch up with what you missed when you wake up. You no longer have to wait for the newspaper or listen to a 24-hour all-news radio station.) The Oscars have a reputation as being to most needlessly dragged out awards show of them all, and the desire for padding is bulking them all up. A writer's strike might provide some relief. Consider that if the job action was still going on, there would be no host. There would be no lame banter and no opening monologue. We would still have to deal with the choreographed song-and-dance numbers and the film clip compilations, but one has to guess that the absence of writers would effectively cut 30-45 minutes from the program. It might end (gasp!) before 11:30 ET! This doesn't qualify as true "Oscar Night Reform," but it's a start.

Alas, one area that would not be helped by the dearth of writers is the acceptance speeches, which have gone from bad to worse in recent years. No one tries to be funny or inventive anymore. They just rattle of a long list of names that are of no possible interest to anyone except the people whose names are being mentioned. (About 0.000001% of the worldwide TV audience.) That's one arena in which the input of writers would be welcome. Here's an idea: if the writers are back on the job by February, every nominee should hire one to write an acceptance speech. It would have to be brief, witty, and mention no more than four names. Losers can auction off their unused acceptance speeches on e-Bay.

Of course, if the strike is still on come Oscar time, there would be some intrigue surrounding the doling out of the screenplay awards. Would the winners boycott? Would they send someone named Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the statue? Would pandemonium break out? Ultimately, these questions are probably moot. "Insiders" (whoever they may be) indicate that everyone will be back to work before Hollywood's big night of masturbation. The TV season will suffer a slowdown but not a premature end and movie studios won't even experience a hiccup. The summer of 2009 will be saved, giving us more scripted mindless blockbusters to enjoy and/or endure. Still, I have to admit that part of me was curious about "Plan B" in the event that there were no big movies available for release in 2009.