NBC Photo: Justin Lubin, Kevin Parry/WireImage.com
NBC Photo: Justin Lubin, Kevin Parry/WireImage.com
Michael and Jan are supposed to have Jim and Pam over for dinner. That, my friends, is the hilariously genius Office episode that lies on the other side of the writers' strike, according to show runner Greg Daniels. And it makes my soul hurt. We fans deserve this funny!
Instead, after tonight's Michael-in-wilderness ep, we'll get only one more Office episode until the strike is over. Yep, you heard me. Next week could very well be the season finale of The Office if the dispute drags on. (Get the latest deets in our news story.)
Anyway, The Office is in a very interesting and poignant position in this Writers Guild fight. We chatted up executive producer Greg Daniels to get the reason why, plus scoop on storylines and why he shut the show down earlier than most others...
Where does The Office stand in regard to the strike?
The Office is a perfect example of a show that has a vested interest in the issues on the table. We're one of the highest downloads on iTunes. We made a lot of money there, and the creative people didn't see any of it. And this is the future of the television business. People are going to sit in front of a box that has computer guts inside and watch their shows, and just because it's not called a TV, it doesn't apply to our contract. All we're saying is that it's the same thing. We're watching the same show from our couch or from our chair on a screen, and just 'cause it's delivered through the Internet, we're not [being compensated for it].
Today, we're surrounded by the people that run the shows and the majority of them are doing very fine, and it's not about money for us. It's about middle-class writers and actors—our staffs are made up of those people, and they should get [what they're due].
So, if the strike lasts for 22 weeks or however long, you're not going to be worrying about paying your mortgage and your livelihood?
Well, I think what I'm most worried about is the next 20 years, when all the stuff that I've done goes on the Internet, whether or not my writers and I will get any money from that. That is what I'm more worried about. I think the writers have been kicking themselves for 20 years that we only get four cents for every $20 DVD that's sold.
How is the mood among the writers at this point?
The mood is fantastic. The reason why it's an intransigent strike is because the companies know how much money's at stake, and if they can reduce their costs here, it'll be huge for them, because the Internet's a big profitable thing. It's a very positive business model. It's not the auto industry. You know, there are no Chinese sitcoms coming in to compete with them. It's practically a monopoly. They have a very healthy business model.
Another thing I think is important for the public to know is that our government gives broadcast licenses to these big media companies to create the public culture. For them to just be only concerned with money, for them to say they don't mind taking The Office off the air, The Shield off the air, Grey's Anatomy off the air and replacing them with new reality shows like, you know, America's Loudest Voice and America's Prettiest Face, that's not fulfilling their obligation to create a good public culture.
How long will you hold out?
I'm here for the duration. I'll go teach school. I mean, that's it. I'm not going back until the strike's over.
You shut down production of The Office yesterday, the second day of the strike. Did that have anything to do with the fact that you have several writer-actors who would've been put in a tough position, required to report to work as actors?
Yes, we shut the show down yesterday with our pickets. One of the reasons we shut the show down was because we didn't want to do a half-baked episode of the show where the writers weren't present, and everybody on the creative team agreed that was the right thing to do. Steve Carell would not come in and cross the WGA picket. He's a Writers Guild member, and that's the end of the show.
But the main thing I think that's special about The Office, even more so than the writer-performers—although that is what gets SAG and WGA working together—is that we're very much aware of the future. You know, we had 7 million downloads on iTunes. We are the big draw on NBC.com. We did webisodes before anybody did webisodes. We won the Daytime Emmy for our webisodes. None of this stuff did we get paid for and, you know, this is the future of TV. We've seen the future because we've kind of lived it, and so we're very much aware that the business model is fantastic for the companies. The ad rates are much higher for Internet ads than they are for TV ads, because you can't skip 'em. You have to watch 'em, and they can tailor them to the consumers. So, they're very valuable ads.
It's obvious that all TV entertainment will come through the Internet soon. They're going to make a ton of money through it, and they know it, and that's what they're fighting for. They've made projections that if they have to give a few crumbs to the writers and actors, it'll reduce these gigantic profits from the Internet by a certain amount, and they're willing to try and keep that amount in their pockets and take the strike now.
Why aren't the studios making more of an effort to share Internet revenues?
Well, because it's so much money. If you're the company, and you make a projection that if you can avoid paying residuals to writers and actors, you can save a billion dollars over the next 10 years, then the strike has to do a billion dollars worth of damage to your company before you're gonna care. You know, it's just math. I don't feel like they're really taking into account that this is a town that works together. It's just right to allow the writers and actors to have the same deal on the Internet that they have on TV. There's really no difference. It's just a box that you watch your TV shows on.
It's like if we made pots, and we delivered them in a green truck, and our contract said, "This is what you get for pots delivered in a green truck," and then they bought red trucks and gave us nothing for the same pots, just because they were delivered in the red trucks.
And speaking of the Internet, The Office has a huge online fan base that logs on to just talk about the shows, too.
Yes. If they want to talk, they should maybe consider writing letters to the head of NBC or, you know, doing something, because we only have two more episodes. This Thursday's episode was written by Steve Carell, and then we have the following week's episode, and then that's it.
And you were quoted as saying that the episode you shut down this week was one of the funniest to date.
I mean, I think they're all great. But in terms of the table reading, it was the most raucously successful, laughter-filled table reading that we have ever had so far. So, it hurts to shut it down. But you know...
Can you tell me anything about that episode?
Well, you have to understand that it takes place after the next two episodes. This week's is Michael Scott going into the wilderness like Survivor Man. The following week's episode is Jan suing Dunder-Mifflin for wrongful termination, because of her breast job, and Michael getting caught in the middle and having to testify at a deposition.
The one that we shut down was Jan and Michael inviting Pam and Jim over for dinner and fighting like crazy because of the issues that were brought up in the deposition. It's a superfunny episode, and I hope that we'll one day shoot it.
--Reporting by Korbi Ghosh