Pride, prejudice should not get in the way of WGA deal

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Hollywood writers and directors switched roles last week. The directors wrote a script for an ending to the writers strike. Now the writers are reading it, and everyone is waiting to see if they will pass or come on board to direct.

Like any script, it goes to the reps first. Here is an early telling sign -- writers' agents love it.

"It's a fucking great deal," one top literary agent says of the DGA-AMPTP pact. "The WGA will be crazy if they don't embrace it."

But as a prospective director, the WGA would probably want to make changes, beginning with the title. "Pride and Prejudice" seems a logical choice because there is a lot of bruised pride involved in embracing someone else's deal and a lot of prejudice toward "struck" material written during the strike.

Yes, there was an element of "in your face" on the part of the studios in giving the directors a better deal than the one they initially offered the writers and doing so in fewer than six days of negotiations and with no strike.

For the WGA, considering a deal that doesn't include jurisdiction over reality television and animation sure would look like backtracking as it brings the guild back to the faithful night on Dec. 7 when it turned down AMPTP's ultimatum to take the two issues off the table. If the WGA now accepts these conditions, it's hard to justify the past month and a half of striking that ruined the holidays for tens of thousands of rank-and-file writers and crew members and led to more layoffs and the termination of about 70 overall TV deals.

But it was WGA chief negotiator John Bowman -- the guild representative who Thursday received the studios' personal invitation to resume talks -- who said in November at the big Fox rally that the WGA was ready to be "the bigger man" in its "broken relationship" with the AMPTP.

For those who have seen the 2005 movie "Pride & Prejudice" or read Jane Austen's book (hey, studies say people are reading more during the strike), pride and prejudice are eventually overcome for a happy ending punctuated by two weddings.

The DGA and AMPTP already exchanged vows.

Now it's the WGA's turn to walk down the aisle. And for a happy "Big Love"-style marriage, the groom has to treat the second wife with the same love and respect as he does the one that first signed on the dotted line.

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In an unrelated story -- or so it seems -- Kiefer Sutherland is being released from jail today.

In October, Sutherland opted for a longer sentence over DUI charges to be served in two installments -- all to prevent any production disruptions on "24." Then the writers strike disrupted it anyway and made the real-time drama its first big casualty when Fox decided two days into the work stoppage to forgo airing an incomplete season.

When Sutherland resumes normal life today after serving his entire term, it will feel as if he never left.

He entered Glendale City jail Dec. 5 when the WGA and AMPTP were talking and there was a lot of hope for an end to the writers strike. With him behind bars, negotiations quickly collapsed and were replaced by a bitter standoff that steamrolled the Golden Globes and is threatening the Oscars.

Now Sutherland is coming out just as the DGA signed a deal with AMPTP, and there is a new hope for an end to the strike. In fact, the news of his release broke within minutes from the announcement of the DGA pact.

Things went really bad while Jack Bauer was in jail. He might have been deprived of the chance to save the world this season, but he might be the key to saving Hollywood's labor peace -- as long as he uses a designated driver.
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