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So Who Won the Strike?

Photo illustration: AP

With the strike finally, it seems, over, it's time for the meta-question: Was this strike worth it, and who won? Well, it depends whom you ask!

For instance, if you ask Variety, you'll learn that writers were silly for striking and have cost the richest and most important of their ranks money, precious money. Writers have complained throughout the strike that Variety is in the pocket of the studios, and it's true that their poststrike wrap-up, the awesomely headlined "Dealmakers Spurred by Fear, Loathing," is sharply critical of the writers (though it doesn't skimp on criticism of the studios' negotiation strategies, either). "The victories in new media that may pay big dividends in the future have come at a high price in the here and now," Cynthia Littleton writes, making the point over and over that monetary gains over the course of the contract may be eclipsed for some writers by the money lost during the strike. "A showrunner who was slated to make around $40,000 per episode on a 22-episode order for the 2007-08 season that has been downscaled to 12-15 segs is out at least $280,000." We're sure the rank and file of mostly unemployed WGA members are heartbroken about that development.

Meanwhile, David Carr takes a break from the Oscar race to analyze the strike for the Times this morning. Did the writers win? "On points, yes, probably," Carr writes. "On principle, certainly. From a practical perspective, maybe not so much." Carr points out that the substantial changes in the industry brought about in part by the strike — the possible evaporation of the pilot-season structure, and the cutting loose of development deals by studios — may make it harder for workaday writers to make a living. On the other hand, Carr notes, the writers' greatest victory may be the unified force they presented, defying the studios' assumptions they would splinter. In future negotiations, Carr notes, "studios will now have to deal with is a group that is remarkably united."

The most writer-positive analysis comes from Forbes' Lacey Rose. "Never mind the percentages, fees and rerun royalties," she writes. "By gaining jurisdiction over any original material Hollywood produces for the Internet, the Writers Guild of America has ensured its survival." That's been the argument of many writers up to now: that the fight for participation in Internet proceeds is one whose effects will be felt for years, much as the terrible deal the writers made for home-video proceeds in the eighties haunted the Guild for years. If she's right, then maybe the writers really did win.

It remains to be seen. The blog at the epicenter of the WGA struggle, United Hollywood, has been printing e-mails from writers who buy into the agreement and writers with major problems with it. Anecdotally, it seems many writers feel the strike was a victory, which may be all that matters for now.

Dealmakers spurred by fear, loathing [Variety]
Who Won the Writers Strike? [NYT]
The Web Wins [Forbes]

When is your favorite show coming back? Check out Vulture's constantly-updated Poststrike Encyclopedia to find out.