Sunday, April 24, 2011

Were Soap Operas Killed By The Unions?

That's the case that Kyle Smith in the New York Post lays out when doing a post-mortem on "One Life to Live” and “All My Children.”.  Tying it to the recent deaths of  "As the World Turns,” “Guiding Light” and “Another World", Smith comes to the following conclusions:

Whenever a business is bleeding, there’s often a union holding a bloody knife and a dazed “Who, me?” expression — like 6-year-old Michael Myers in “Halloween.

In the last decade, soaps have been trying to cut costs to the bone. But those bones are covered in the impenetrable gristle of AFTRA (the daytime actors union), WGA (the writers guild), the DGA (directors) and the backstage union IATSE....Union super-minimum wages lead directly to high unemployment. AFTRA requires each of the main performers to be paid at least $913 a day, but stars get much more.....Seventeen Writers Guild jobs disappear when the two ABC soaps go dark. They aren’t getting paid in Palmolive, either. Head writers (of whom there might be more than one) get at least $35,345 a week
The unions are clueless.  Unless murder is not a side effect, but the point of the exercise itself:

An AFTRA source who didn’t want to be identified says, “We’re certainly mindful of the challenges the industry faces,” although not mindful enough to back down on their main goal: “We want to increase pay and benefits for our members.”

How's that working out? Oh:

Hundreds of IATSE members are going to be out of work. Even unionized reality programs like ABC’s upcoming soap replacements “The Chew” (Mario Batali cooking show) and “The Revolution” (a “Biggest Loser”-style weight-loss show) will bring far fewer jobs in makeup, costumes, set moving, etc.

Maybe renegotiating the daytime serials portion of the contract would have beaten layoffs. But from the unions’ perspective, any concession sets a dangerous precedent. If they take a hit on daytime, isn’t that an invitation to cut prime-time contracts? So unions will continue to shrug at reality and the marketplace will continue to punish them.

New Jersey native Brittany Underwood, now out of work, thanks to her union brothers...

And the next time the unions complain about "big business" outsourcing their jobs overseas, maybe they should take a closer look; they might be surprised that they're the ones helming the transatlantic liner:

At some point, union cost differentials become so absurd that productions get outsourced. Showtime’s “The Borgias” was shot in Hungary. China was happy to not only host production of the remake of “The Karate Kid” but to write a large check for the opportunity.
You might think there would be some outrage here, but with Obama in the White House the unions have an enabler -in-chief, one that will excuse them any excesses (from New York to Los Angeles to Wisconsin) and point them towards the next target-rich environment (Boeing!).

So soap fans, don't vent your ire at the studio execs, forced to make decisions with a knife at their throat.  If you are looking for a guilty party, why, just look for the union label....

No more daytime lesbian makeout scenes? Now I'm really pissed off.... 

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