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The suits are ruining your favorite shows

The Writers Guild strike seems remote from people watching streaming shows right now because the big streamers still have a lot of film ready to go. That, and most viewers don't even understand many of the things the writers have demanded. Hollywood Reporter recently got 14 writers from the ABC show Happy Endings to talk about how having all that experience in one room made it a better show—and how the "mini-rooms" and siphoning creative control to line producers who have never written so much as a short story are making most shows unwatchable:

I was talking to a writer on the picket line who is a supervising producer under an overall deal and she had been meeting up until the strike to go run shows — and she has never been on set one time. I said, “Ask yourself: Why do they want you to get this title of showrunner if you don’t have the experience to do the job?” That’s the real question, right? Because they want to create this fake position where the line producer is really in charge and they don’t show the showrunner the budget. They want to change what a “showrunner” is because they know they can’t do the job without everything we laid out of how you become a showrunner. They don’t want showrunners like there used to be. There’s a reason why they’re starting to restrict access of information to showrunners. This feels, sadly, like a bigger plan beyond just the staff size issue where they’ve said, “Oh, it’s a budget thing.” I was not sold on the minimum writer requirement at first.

If they limit your ability to make changes in the budget, they can control exactly what happens. On my most recent show, I had to fight for the writers to go to set for their episodes. And it was one of those issues where if I had not had access to the budget — which some showrunners are reporting that they do not have access to anymore — I wouldn’t be able to say, “Let’s find this money somehow.” Or when they told me that what I wanted to shoot was not shootable, then I wouldn’t be able to say, “No, it is shootable, but we need to shoot a shorter episode.” So unfortunately, it just allows people to control things on a studio and network level where they have people that work for them versus showrunners where sometimes they feel showrunners are off doing their own thing.

How many times have we seen a show that doesn’t totally make sense by the time we get to the end? It’s because you didn’t have a room of people breaking that story together, writing that story together, rewriting it together. You didn’t have ambassadors for each episode following it through to production, remembering those things so that if something’s getting rewritten in episode seven, the person who wrote episode two is like, “No, that’s going to screw up a thing that we started over here.” There isn’t a lot of thought that goes into it because these aren’t little movies. It’s not the same medium. You see a lot of people complaining about television now, that it’s not how it used to be. And everyone’s wondering why that is. And I personally think this is why that is.

On these mini-rooms, all the writers go off to script and aren’t paid for the week that they’re writing. If that were me, I would not be putting in my best effort because I’d be running around trying to find another job while I’m also expected to write the script. You turn it in and you’re like, “Good luck, I hope it works out for you,” because you’re not getting paid to rewrite it. And they’re all being written at the same time, so if your show is serialized, then your showrunner is left with these eight Frankenstein scripts that they have to make sense of as you’re going into production. You’re being set up to fail. If you are a first-time writer, if you’re a writer of color, if you’re a woman, that shit is 10 times harder for you because you’re not allowed to take up space in that way, so you have to eat it and keep going, and eventually you burn out. And those writers didn’t learn anything and the showrunner is put in an unfair position. All of it is bad.

Remember this time. By the '30s, you will hate everything about television if this keeps up.

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