Voiceover: Lunch will liven up without this strike


STRIKE ZONE: Latest news and updates

Barring an unforeseen eleventh-hour glitch, we can finally get back to business as usual.

After all, it's been three long months since we've been able to concentrate fully on any of the bread-and-butter issues of Hollywood: Is Britney Spears certifiable or just a pawn in the hands of her calculating entourage? Is Tom Cruise out on a flimsy limb with "Valkyrie" or bravely carving out new career ground? And Google moving into China to take on Baidu.com -- is this hubris or chutzpah?

Posing any of these questions during lunch has inevitably invited quizzical or even condescending stares. How can I be thinking about such things when the strike is on: One is either callous or pathetically out of the loop to persist with such subjects.

Thus, no matter how much I might try to switch gears, the tone of practically every conversation would inevitably turn solemn, long before the ahi tuna or flattened chicken arrived.

Have your reporters noticed the shifting body language of the picketers out in Burbank? Did you call that showrunner who's ready to elucidate the fussing going on within the writers' ranks? Aren't you aghast over the AMPTP's seemingly uncaring attitude about the plight of the town's talent?

The real show-stoppers in all this were the folks who would bring up the work stoppage in 1988, just to make sure we all got just how dramatic a reshaping of the town took place in the wake thereof. (OK, I remember, too: TV newsmags came into their own as a result, and look what's happened to them ...)

A few grizzled types would even harken back to the air traffic controllers stoppage, which Reagan put paid to, or to the miners strike in the U.K., over which Iron Lady Thatcher rapped knuckles. When analogies with the writers seemed too far-fetched, I would often hear the standard irrefutable refrain, "In the end it's all Bush's fault."

That became my cue for picking up the bill.

Don't get me wrong. We'll be exploring the repercussions of this latest standoff over new media for months, if not years to come. A billion dollars in business lost and people put out of work is nothing to be sniffed at.

For one thing, it's going to be interesting to see how much of the belt-tightening, not just at the major studios but also at talent agencies, management firms and indie production outfits, is loosened, and how much stringency, in these recessionary times, is here to stay. (The BMW dealership on Lankershim Boulevard sold 135 Beemers last winter, only three so far this. We'll have to monitor how swiftly he gets back to normal.)

And all those scripts that presumably will flood the town: Will they actually be better for having been penned quickly and out of adrenalin-driven indignation?

Still, it'll be nice to get to talk with impunity about something else -- at least, that is, until the actors contract comes up in June.