We've Got Hollywood Covered

Soap Opera Writers Fear WGA Strike Will ‘Do a Lot of Harm’

”A few writers that were fired never worked again,“ one daytime veteran tells TheWrap of the last walkout

The soap opera world is shuddering at the prospect the Writers Guild of America will go on strike next week because the 100-day walkout in 2007-08 proved devastating to so many careers — and shows in a genre that been steadily waning in popularity.

“I did vote yes for this strike at the end of the day, because I believe in what they’re doing,” one veteran daytime drama writer told TheWrap. “But you have to go into it know that this is going to do a lot of harm. A lot of harm.”

Other current soap writers are “petrified” of the outcome. “The last one caused a lot of friendships to end and business relationships to end and it hurt,” one writer said. “A few writers that were fired never worked again. Talented writers. I was out of work for a year and was told, basically, that I would never work in daytime again because I was too vocal during the strike. I got lucky and eventually did.”

In addition, the genre itself suffered a major blow in the years just after the strike with multiple long-time shows getting canceled. While there were eight soaps on the broadcast networks in 2008, only four remain today: NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” ABC’s “General Hospital” and CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Several current soap writers fear similarly dire results should the WGA go on the picket line next week. “There’s a lot of good that the union provides… but it will hurt immensely if the strike happens,” the writer said. “It trickles down. Even cameramen didn’t work.”

The strike of ’88 was the longest in the history of WGA and, according to AFP, cost the American entertainment industry an estimated $500 million, with a National Public Radio (NPR) report filed shortly after the strike’s end estimating a $1.5 billion loss to the economy of Los Angeles, where most production took place.

Although many soap fans continued to watch their shows during the last strike, the result wasn’t always good — particularly since many series relied on inexperienced or nonprofessional writers to get by.

“About half the soaps on the air during the strike were doing well, and the other half were floundering,” a second writer told TheWrap.

“They brought writers in that just did not know the characters,” the writer said. “One show in particular was a train wreck, and their ratings steadily declined every season over the years that followed, from 7.1 share until it hit an all-time low of 1.8.”