Prepare yourself for a potentially dull autumn television schedule. With the first Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in 15 years in full swing, the more immediate future of some of your favorite content hangs in the air.
The strike began last week following six weeks of high-stakes negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers trade group.
Thousands of unionized scribes claim they are not being paid fairly in the streaming era. (The WGA represents some NBCUniversal news division employees, and Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is represented by the trade group.)
The strike has effectively halted production on some television and internet shows, upending the entertainment business.
According to Oliver Mayer, a professor of dramatic writing at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts, audiences may not notice a difference in programming just now. However, if the strike persists, planned premiere dates for episodes or seasons would undoubtedly shift.
“There’ll be a lot of reruns. There won’t be as much content,” Mayer, who is an emeritus member of the WGA, said. “It’s a matter of weeks, not months from now, that a good consumer of this material is going to notice the drought.”
What Shows Are Already Affected?
The late-night shows were the first to be affected.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers;” CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert;” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!;” and HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and “Real Time With Bill Maher” all went dark as soon as the strike commenced.
“Saturday Night Live” on NBC also halted its 48th season. The show will air repeats for the foreseeable future, Variety reported.
Drew Barrymore, the actress and talk show host, has stepped down as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards, which aired on Sunday.
“I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike,” she said in a statement to NBC News. “Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation.”
Some returning shows’ production has also been halted. Many TV showrunners expressed their support for fellow writers in status updates for viewers.
The Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer, announced the cancellation of season 5 of their hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
“Writing does not stop when filming begins,” they wrote in a tweet Saturday. “While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then — over and out. #wgastrong.”
Duffers here. Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then — over and out. #wgastrong
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) May 6, 2023
Jen Statsky, the creator of “Hacks,” announced on Twitter that the HBO show is halting production.
“Writing happens at every stage of the process production and post included. It’s what makes shows and movies good,” she tweeted.
We are devastated to not be with our incredible crew and cast right now, but there was no other option here. Writing happens at every stage of the process – production and post included. It’s what makes shows and movies good. It’s what makes them possible. #wgastrong https://t.co/aU8QqUDEwu
— Jen Statsky (@jenstatsky) May 5, 2023
Quinta Brunson, creator and star of the Emmy Award-winning sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” said she is also a part of the WGA and is on strike “demanding fair compensation for writers!”
I don’t use this app anymore because it honestly is a bit much for me- but I just want to clarify this-
— quinta brunson (@quintabrunson) May 3, 2023
According to co-creator Ashley Lyle, writing for season three of Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” was placed on hold after one day. She tweeted that she hopes to return to the writers room after a fair deal is reached.
“Cobra Kai” also closed its writers room for season six until a fair deal is agreed on, co-creator and writer Jon Hurwitz said on Twitter last week.
We hate to strike, but if we must, we strike hard. Pencils down in the Cobra Kai writers room. No writers on set. These aren’t fun times, but it’s unfortunately necessary. The moment a fair deal is in place, we’ll get back to kicking ass. In the meantime, sending strength and… https://t.co/99UulF7HeW
— Jon Hurwitz (@jonhurwitz) May 2, 2023
“We hate to strike, but if we must, we strike hard,” he wrote.
Mayer stated that viewers should expect the writing on their favorite series to suffer as a result of the strike, even if the guild is able to reach an agreement sooner than planned.
“We all have to jump back into writing, and as the world changes, a storyline that might have been on a show that you like, depending on what’s going on in politics or whatever — the storyline will change,” he explained.
How About Shows Filmed Internationally?
“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin revealed that filming for the second season of the “House of the Dragon” spinoff began on April 11 in the United Kingdom and would continue.
“The scripts for the eight s2 episodes were all finished months ago, long before the strike began. Every episode has gone through four or five drafts and numerous rounds of revisions,” he wrote in a blog post-Sunday. “There will be no further revisions. The writers have done their jobs; the rest is in the hands of the directors, cast, and crew… and of course the dragons.”
Martin reiterated his “unequivocal support” for the strike — and revealed that the writer’s room for his second “GOT” spinoff, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight,” “has closed for the duration.”
A spokeswoman for Amazon Studios confirmed that work on “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” which is being shot in the United Kingdom, is continuing.
The upcoming season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is shot in Canada, has been canceled. Creator Bruce Miller declared his strike involvement and has been retweeting other authors’ picket-line updates.
“We are on strike, we excused ourselves. Excused? What are we, seven years old? We don’t need to be excused, thanks,” he wrote in a tweet.
Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.