Daily Digest: Writers Upset NBCU Upfront as B-team Takes Stage
New York picketers bring a whole different vibe from the LA crowd
A tambourine, a stream of picketers, a dog saddled with a tiny puppet holding a tiny strike sign. As expected, the writers strike took center stage outside Radio City Music Hall on Monday morning, chanting thisclose to the media buyers lined up to enter the first major upfront of the week from NBCUniversal.
We’ll get to the actual presentation in a moment, but first, can we talk about the New York faction of the Writers Guild and its extremely organized and effective call-and-response picket this morning? The L.A. vibe differs a bit from studio to studio, but the baseline is, “We may be on strike but we’re not going to let that harsh our mellow.” If today’s picket offers any indication, the WGA East has a slightly more militant vibe — and was notably joined by non-Hollywood unions, including a CUNY student and teacher contingency.
Exhibit A: WGA strike captain Josh Gondelman (who spoke to us from a picket line in Brooklyn outside Silvercup Studios the other week, leading the chant: “When I say pages, you say wages. Pages! Wages! Pages! Wages!” “When I say shut it, you say down. Shut it! Down! Shut it! Down!” At Radio City, some members of the group had been outside the building since 5 a.m., he told me.
Writers who have picketed on both coasts, help me out here. I would gladly publish any thoughts, letter-to-the-editor style, on the variance in weltanschaaung between East Coast and West Coast picket lines.
NBCUniversal’s upfronts went smoothly enough, all things considered. Hamstrung by the strike, the Peacock parent appeared short on writers and actors willing to cross picket lines for a room full of Madison Avenue ad men/women, so instead the day began with a musical number by the foul-mouthed animated bear Ted, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, which serendipitously included the line, “Twitter may seem like the place to begin/But Twitter just let all the crazies back in.” The ditty was no doubt recorded well before Thursday, when news broke that NBCU ad chief Linda Yaccarino was departing to become CEO of Twitter, and prompted a shocked burst of laughter from the crowd.
The rest of the roster, deprived of the Hollywood set, drew heavily from its news bench to carry the day, reaching for connective tissue. NBC morning-show host Willie-“If you squint, I look like Colin Jost, right?”-Geist presented a clip show of Saturday Night Live, Andrew Ross Sorkin took a breather from his CNBC anchor desk to rave about Annette Bening and Mandy Moore’s new projects, and MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle drew parallels between news reporters and scripted drama creators — both “raise the curtain on other worlds” — in order to introduce NBC and Peacock’s scheduled fall TV lineup. A recorded segment that included interviews with Amy Poehler and Rian Johnson made sure to specify that it had been recorded in April, prior to the strike.
But just as unscripted stepped in during the last work stoppage, so it did again today, with the loudest cheer at Radio City Music Hall coming for Bravo-lebrity Ariana Madix (of Vanderpump Rules fame to reality TV addicts, and of “Scandoval” fame to the rest of us).
After the presentation, on my way down from the mezzanine, I ran into Yaccarino’s interim successor Mark Marshall, where he was being congratulated left and right for his debut upfronts outing as NBCU ads chief. How did he think he did on stage?
It went well, “except for the teleprompter freezing,” he chuckled. (He rolled with the on-stage snafu to laughter and applause.)
Outside, the picketers were still going strong. And a group representing NBCU’s union had joined them. On to Day Two tomorrow, where we’ll see what kind of disruptive energy the picketers bring to Disney’s upfront at the Javits Center.
Today’s Strike News
During an emergency meeting on Monday, Tony Awards officials asked WGA leadership to reconsider a compromise that would allow the show to move forward as planned in the form of a televised broadcast on June 11. (New York Times)
Graduating students intent on landing a job in screenwriting are getting a real-time education in what the strike means for the profession. “This strike is for the future generations of writers,” says one SCAD Dramatic Writing professor and WGA member. “These issues need to be resolved now.” (SCAD District)
Scabby the Rat has been a fixture at New York City union protests for decades, including, most recently, the WGA picket lines in New York. But the beloved rodent and symbol of defiance is losing relevancy. According to a union activity administrator for the NYC District Council of Carpenters, “one person thought that we were protesting a building that needed an exterminator.” Scabby needs an agent, stat! (AP)
Picket Sign of the Day
As seen in New York.
Send tips or your favorite picket sign pics to email@example.com or Elaine@theankler.com.
Bless Josh Gondelman! He’s a walking talking pep talk machine. I wish we had him on the west coast. Not that we dont have fun…or strong leaders — but so far no great, catchy call and response rallies (where I’ve been at least. Maybe I’m the problem…) . One the good side- I did see an ominous crow perched on one studios gate today. I hope thats an omen for them. :).