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Walking the line

Casualties of the writers' strike


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Something has got to give.

Now, I fully support the Writer's Guild of America's strike; they should be paid for their work in all formats including DVD and the Internet. But I cannot take any more reruns, reality programming, cobbled-together talk shows (daytime or nighttime) and awkward interviews with athletes and "civilians."

The last season of HBO's The Wire arrived just in time; I have found myself eyeballing TV shows that I watch sporadically -- like The Biggest Loser, various shows on The Food Network -- and those that I would never watch like Baisden After Dark on TVOne.

The Biggest Loser is actually quite good and inspiring, particularly during the beginning of the new year when many of us have resolved to lose weight. Some of the participants are trying to lose upwards of 100 pounds and are working their butts off in order to accomplish their goal and stay on the show. The show sort of shames those of us with multiple excuses for why we cannot work out into getting off of the couch and making it happen.

As a foodie, I love watching The Food Network but have learned that this is not good for me, particularly as I have endeavored to get physically fit by eating a healthy diet this year. The Barefoot Contessa is my absolute favorite with her savory dishes, decadent deserts and crisp white linens. As someone who loves to cook and entertain, I do believe that my newfound addiction to The Food Network allows me to live vicariously through the show hosts, since I am entertaining less and working out more. One day, I will figure out how to do both simultaneously and find joy in it.

I also found myself watching Baisden After Dark. As I am not a fan of Michael Baisden's syndicated radio show, I had not watched his TV show, assuming that I would not like it. But I decided to give it a whirl. I watched a few episodes and remembered why I do not listen to his radio show: too much talking and not enough listening.

The last episode of Baisden that I watched examined why 70 percent of African-American women are without partners, which sounded like an interesting topic. But the show was actually about why there are more "babies mommas" than wives as opposed to why 70 percent of black women are un-partnered, which in my mind are two different things, albeit related. The constant banter and blatant sexism in the discussion, in spite of the presence of Essence magazine Editor Angela Burt-Murray and former Miss USA Kenya Moore on the panel was shocking. Both ladies tried to interject their opinions, but were repeatedly dismissed by the other panelists -- comedian George Wilburn, Baisden and a young, black actor who actually had the most interesting things to say.

The statistics were summarily the fault of black women who do not know how to submit as the Bible suggests, are too career-driven, and have too many babies with men who will not marry them. Further, the brothers are not capable of "doing right" by women, and the responsibility of out-of-wedlock births is solely the woman's domain. The discussion focused more on what women were doing wrong, while men were let off of the hook for "just being men." The lack of critical discussion and dialogue about this important subject reminded me of why I do not listen to the radio show: it doesn't add value, entertainment or otherwise to the media landscape.

The writer's strike has impacted the studios and audiences in a major way. Most discussion centers around the strike's influence on the industry, namely how the strike has literally "shut down" many shows, and forced producers and performers like Jay Leno to work out "creative" ways of walking the line without crossing it. Some of these creative efforts have failed as evidenced by the record-low number of viewers of awards shows like The People's Choice Awards.

Hosted by Queen Latifah, The People's Choice Awards, which aired on CBS, substituted the traditional live show with a taped format that featured award winners. The WGA refused to give waivers for its members to work on the show, and the Screen Actors Guild stated that its members would not cross picket lines in order to participate in the show. This cost the ceremony, which was watched by 6 million viewers this year (as opposed to the 11.3 million that watched last year), its star power according to Nielsen Media Research figures. It is a shame that both parties have been unable to come to an amicable agreement over what seems to be common sense to most. People should be paid for what they write in all formats, including a proven market like the Internet.

As the writers continue to strike, there will be many casualties in the process. TV shows, talk shows and the like will have to figure out how to walk this fine line without crossing it, while viewers will have to suffer through some really crappy programming -- and hopefully discover a few good shows as well.


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