the pulse

Tomato, tomahto: Let's call the whole thing off

A lot of people seem to be a little confused about this whole WGA strike thing. I'm not just talking about folks who inhabit that unincorporated no man's land between Los Angeles and New York but indeed even right here in Hollywood. So as a holiday gift to you, it is my great privilege to help untangle what has devolved into a confounding quagmire.

Question: What are the real issues dividing the striking writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers?

Answer: Contrary to what you might have been hearing, it isn't about money but love. The writers are demanding at least three meaningful hugs while a script is in progress and a half-dozen "residual" hugs during a project's afterlife. My insiders tell me that the studios have refused to move from their original position of two hand-holds and a single "attaboy" but no hugs. Their rationale is that it's far too early to assess the future of human motivation and affection.

Q: What about the whole area of DVDs and Internet streaming and downloads? Are those still the sticking points?

A: Not really. The writers already have acquiesced to the studio demand that, in lieu of a revenue-sharing package, they will be permitted to work without the persistent threat of waterboarding.

Q: Why did negotiations break off with such animosity a week ago?

A: Reportedly, one of the negotiators for the guild asked an AMPTP team member if he could borrow a pen. When a second WGA rep also asked for a pen, he was admonished: "It never ends with you people, does it? Take take take!" The writers' rep allegedly replied: "Yeah? Well, you're stupid and ugly!" The studio rep then shot back: "Guess what? Your momma doesn't know who your daddy is!" That was met with, "Care to take this outside?" and both sides stormed out in a huff.

Q: But which side is right and which one is wrong?

A: Ah, if only it were so simple. There is rarely an absolute right or absolute wrong in an impasse. But as a means of cutting through any purported bias, our new editorial policy will be to refer to the writers as "The Righteous" and the studios as "Satan's Disciples."

Q: Why hasn't Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to mediate things?

A: The governor apparently lost interest after being told he'd have to leave his firearms at home.

Q: Why would the studios hire a high-powered public relations firm a few weeks back if they truly were hoping to settle the strike?

A: Actually, the studio negotiators are said to have used the new PR team simply to convey the message that the nation's safety and security were now linked directly to contract talks and that siding with the WGA was tantamount to backing "the enemy." An orange alert was immediately issued for the negotiating area.

Q: How long is this thing destined to drag on?

A: Some people are saying January, others February, still others March and a few April. Then there are those who believe it won't be settled until May, as well as the group that insists we're looking at June. In other words, it could well be July. Unless it's August or September, of course.

Q: How can these people agree to put thousands of below-the-line workers on the street during the holiday season? Have they no decency?

A: That's correct — none. The last confirmed report of entertainment industry decency came on Sept. 14, 1963, when a homeless man living outside the Paramount studio gates was given a job as a parking lot attendant. He was quickly fired.