Rumor Patrol: All the Showrunners Went Back to Work

STATUS: False.
Several people called and/or emailed under the assumption that because negotiations had resumed, all the showrunners were back on the job. I'm guessing the origin of this rumor was a post on Variety's Scribe Vibe blog from the 26th:

Many of TV's top showrunners headed back to the office this week, resuming their non-writing chores (such as editing, supervising post production, etc.). One studio exec said "more than half" of his series' showrunners were back at work, both on the comedy and drama side.
Fueling the return: The revived talks between the Writers' Guild and AMPTP. That follows through on an arrangement proposed by many showrunners earlier this month, in which the multi-hyphenates agreed to return to work only if the studios agreed to return to the negotiating table.
Multiple sources told UH yesterday that this is a delicious cocktail of spin, one part exaggeration mixed with two parts incorrect information. (Just add some sour mix and a dash of bitters!)

Anonymous sources close to the situation (what works for Variety works for us) laughed off the "about half" figure for one network. Across ALL the networks, one source said the number was in the single digits -- as in, under ten. It's certainly nowhere near half, we're told.

So that's the exaggeration. The incorrect parts are these:

1. The AMPTP's return to the table was the criteria for showrunners to return: False.
Our multiple sources say the proposal was actually to return to work if the AMPTP "began negotiating in good faith." Simply returning to the table was not the threshold being considered. The threshold was some evidence such as a joint announcement that "an agreement in principle" or even "a tentative agreement" had been reached. That was to be the signal that genuine progress was happening and that the companies were serious about making a deal.

2. Some kind of arrangement to go back was actually adopted by the showrunners as a group: False.
Apparently, the backers of this proposal were a "very small faction" of the showrunners. The group at large did not think it was a wise strategy, and so the idea was never declared "the official policy of the group." It was left up to individual consciences when to return.

As best we can determine, the few showrunners who have returned do not even constitute the entire group that proposed holding out for the evidence of "good faith." It's a subset of a subset.

So speaking of "good faith" -- and bad faith -- why would an anonymous exec want to spin Variety this way?

One possible reason is the hope that the spin could be self-fulfilling. If you keep repeating that all the showrunners are working, a bunch of them just might get spooked and go back. The other strategic reason is to split the showrunners and have them turn on one another. What no one on either side of the strike disputes is this section of that same Variety post:
The united front by TV's showrunners to halt their work forced several series to stop production sooner than expected, and is seen by many as having helped the WGA's cause -- serving as a catalyst to jumpstart talks.
So it would be a huge coup for the conglomerates if they could break up that unity. Thankfully, we've been told that the showrunners are respecting each other's choices, even if they disagree with them. "The showrunners are all doing what they think is best to end the strike. And a small group believe that going back to work is going to help; a larger group feels that since staying out was such a powerful tool in bringing the congloms back to the table, it’s best to continue staying out."

Due to the news blackout, we have no idea if the companies are negotiating in good faith. And we won't know until there is some sort of joint announcement of "agreements in principle." Once that happens, some showrunners may go back to work, a lot won't. But the longer it takes for that moment to arrive, the more inclined we are to believe the reports from Nikki Finke that there's a lot of corporate foot-dragging going on.


Anonymous said...

John Ridley had a commentary on NPR & basically said the same thing. With Nikki Finke quoting sources that say the talks are "stalemated" and reports that the showrunners have returned to work, makes you wonder.

Anonymous said...

i just saw on the news that its over!

Anonymous said...

My unnamed sources say aliens are throwing a rock concert in Macon, Georgia, too.

Peter said...

Okay anonymous at 11.01 - what news said this?

Anonymous said...

At least the stagehands strike got settled. I guess the theatre owners in NY cared more about Christmas and their bottom line than the Alliance of networks and studios do out here in LA. What a bunch of grinches.

Anonymous said...

I think anon at 11:01 just confused the writer's strike with the news writers for ABC or the Broadway stagehands.

Anonymous said...

this is 11.01 my bad it was the WGA east strike that ended! but the west 's strike is still under like talks they agreed to meet today so we'll see how that goes. hopefully they will renew there contract!