January 9, 2008
Soaps Continue through Writers Strike

Before the holidays, we published a couple of posts dealing with the writer's strike. As you know, a lot has changed over the past couple of months when the Heroes writers visited MIT while the strike was young. We've seen the late night shows disappear, only to come back in the new year. Letterman and Ferguson have returned with an interim deal in place, while the other late night shows--including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have come back sans writers.

For me, soap operas are in the most interesting place, as they are the one narrative that is especially built on a "world without end." Strike don't stop soaps, and whether you call the writers "interim," "scabs," or "fi core," there are a group of unnamed people churning out scripts for the nine American daytime soaps. Most of those scripts haven't made it on air yet, but fans are wondering what this will mean for the respective shows.

From the beginning, we knew that the soaps would stay on the air, as the stories from Jacques Steinberg in The New York Times and Lynn Smith in The Los Angeles Times discussed early in the strike.

An updated from Smith here explains that some soap writers have returned to their shows with this "fi core" status, which basically means they give up their WGA membership but are still eligible to be represented by the WGA and pay dues, so that they can return to work.

In that Dec. 31 piece, Smith writes:

If any of them knew how production was continuing on the soaps without guild writers, no one wanted to say; that included network executives, who declined to comment.

"Nobody knows where these scripts come from," said Susan Flannery, lead actress on "The Bold and the Beautiful," as she walked the line. "It's a magic act like a pea under an acorn shell. Is it a bartender in Wisconsin or a janitor in the basement?"

Many of the soap writers on the picket line that day said they had expected scabs to keep the shows going.

Soaps are in a unique position because many feel that a prolonged strike could further diminish the place of soaps on the American network schedules, so that, in some ways, returning to the job might be one of the only ways to secure that job long-term. There would be nothing worse than striking for a job that no longer existed by the time the strike was over. From my understanding, most soap opera writers are standing with the WGA on the strike, but it's certainly one of the grayest areas in this struggle.

As I noted back in October, the Procter & Gamble Productions/TeleVest shows, for instance, were making several production changes, which go into place next month, for budgetary reasons.

For soap fans, since there is much less press coverage of the daytime television industry as opposed to primetime among major news outlets, various fan discussion threads and blogs have become sites for amassing bits and pieces of data, as well as speculation. One of the best sites for aggregating strike information is soaps news and opinion site We Love Soaps, who has a category dedicated particularly to news about the strike. There have also been several threads dedicated solely to the strike at Soap Opera Network, and I am sure there are more.

In short, as I have written about before (see here, here, and here), fans often use their own resources to collect information and cope with current events, especially when there is a dearth of traditional coverage on the topic, as soap fans are doing in the case of the writer's strike.

By the way, see our posts on the strike from back in November here and here.