The last time there was a writers strike, late night became the canary in the coal mine. Now, as over 9,000 writers in Hollywood have voted to authorize the Writers Guild of America to strike, Kimmel, Fallon, Colbert and Meyers are the shows first impacted by the work stoppage. TheWrap reached out to those behind the biggest shows in late night and daytime television to see how they’ll be approaching the looming strike.
HBO confirmed to TheWrap that “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” would be going dark this week out of respect to the strike. “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will also be going dark. A source close to “The Late Show” told TheWrap there will be no new episode taped Tuesday night, and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will also not be taping new episodes. All four shows will air repeat episodes until further notice.
“Saturday Night Live” is also going dark. The Pete Davidson-hosted May 6 episode has been scrapped, and repeats will be aired until further notice.
As for daytime television, “The View” hosts said on Tuesday that they would continue their show without writers. “So, you know how we’re always talking about how we’re very different than most other shows? Well, as you know, there is a writer’s strike on, and so we don’t have writers,” Whoopi Goldberg said. “So you’re gonna hear how it would be when it’s not, you know, slicked up.”
Seth Meyers, host of “Late Night” on NBC, was the first host to publicly address the possible strike last Friday. “If you don’t see me here next week, know that it is something that is not done lightly,” Seth Meyers told his viewers as he explained the WGA negotiations. Meyers was head writer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” during the 2007 writers’ strike and described the experience as “miserable.” The late night host also added, “What the writers are asking for is not unreasonable, and as a proud member of the guild, I’m proud that there is an organization that looks out for the best interests of writers.”
On Monday night, “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon revealed “I think we’ll go dark” if there was a strike. When questioned at the Met Gala, Fallon said, “I wouldn’t have a show if it wasn’t for my writers, and I support them all the way. They have to have a fair contract, and they have a lot of stuff to iron out.”
The last writers’ strike lasted 100 days between 2007 and 2008. Though this monumental event effected all of Hollywood, live shows were the first noticeable casualties. Some shows, such as “Saturday Night Live,” faced complete shutdowns for the entire duration of the strike. All were forced to make tough decisions regarding layoffs, how they should proceed with non-unionized staff and if they could continue without writers at all. Conan O’Brien, David Letterman and Jay Leno personally paid at least part of the salaries of their laid-off staff during this time.
Sixteen years later, tensions are higher than ever before, and it all has to do with streaming. Before the age of Netflix, a new writer could break into the industry by being an assistant on a 22-episode broadcast show and climb their way up the ladder as the series progressed. That ladder has all but disappeared during a time when 10-episode seasons are the norm and shows often end after a couple of seasons. This shift has also led to an increase in WGA members who only receive scale pay — “the minimum level as defined in the bargaining agreement with studios.” Speaking of pay, the binge-watching model has completely changed Hollywood’s residual system. Writers could once expect to rely on picking up residual checks from broadcast reruns and syndications of hit shows for years to come. That’s no longer the case.
Streaming has also led to a rise of “mini-rooms.” Used as a tool by studios to see if a project is worth picking up, mini-rooms often happen before the start of production or before a series is even greenlit and require writers to churn out several scripts in a short amount of time. Writers can become stuck in these jobs, unable to leave their contracts or get ahead.
“Over the past decade, while our employers have increased their profits by tens of billions, they have embraced business practices that have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions,” the WGA said in a memo sent to members this week. “The survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation.”
Want more information on the reasons behind a potential strike? Read about all the issues here.