Friday, November 16, 2007

Will the WGA strike turn watchers into readers?

I suppose this is downright unAmerican of us, but my hunk o' burnin' love and I own only one television set. Now that we no longer have kids in the house, the appliance often stays dark for days at a time. Our TV is never turned on "for company" in a quiet house--when we want noise, we listen to music. For us, TV viewing is a deliberate act that can be accomplished only by going downstairs to the finished basement and the room that is used exclusively for that purpose.

In the past seven days, I have watched exactly one hour of television. (I caught "House" on Tuesday night.) And let me tell you, it wasn't anywhere near as entertaining as a good book.

As you might surmise, the film and TV writers' strike, even if prolonged, will affect my life not at all. Maybe I'm a little unusual in that respect. Still, I can't help wondering whether the studios and the Writers Guild of America are about to (unwittingly) sign the death warrant for their industry. I'll be surprised if droves of TV-addicted Americans don't find it easy to kick the habit once their viewing choices have dwindled to endless reruns interspersed with cobbled-together "reality" shows.

I just found this interesting bit in the Los Angeles Times:

Almost 2 out of 3 Americans, or 63%, said they were more inclined to side with writers in their dispute with major studios, according to a survey by Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business Management that is scheduled to be released today.

Will that percentage increase as time goes by and Americans get cranky because they're missing their shows? Will the disgruntled viewers settle down to watch bad television, or will they abandon their TV habits? This from the Times article:

[Pepperdine labor economist David] Smith said the public support could wane if the strike disrupted consumers' TV viewing habits. Though several shows have stopped shooting, viewers won't notice much change until early next year, when reruns, sports and reality shows replace scripted programs.

When asked about the prospect of reruns replacing new shows, and 35% said they would spend more time on the Internet.

42% of the respondents said they would read more.

Just three months ago, The Washington Post reported this:

One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday [August 21]. Of those who did read, women and older people were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year _ half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.

It'll be interesting to see if the Writers Guild of America strike drives book sales up.

Will you be reading more than ever this winter? Have your say in the Comments.


Robin Lee Hatcher said...

Brenda, I had a friend who wrote for television (Dallas, Dynasty, daytime soaps), and I went to LA for a visit with him back in 1988 during the last strike. I don't recall how long that strike went on, but it was quite a while. I think viewers got cranky, but I don't think it turned many viewers into readers. And the Internet wasn't even on the radar for most Americans in 1988, so they weren't turning to it.

Me, I will just pull out one of my favorite movies on DVD. And, if I truly understand what the writers are after (and I may not), then my support is with them.


Robin Lee Hatcher said...

My own comment made me go look it up. The strike lasted for 22 weeks/5 months. My visit to my friend came about ten days before the strike ended in August 1988.

DebMc said...

I don't know if the general public will read more, but I hope the striking writers will pick up a book or two. Better yet, maybe they'll pick up a pen and *polish* a script or create a new one with fresh ideas. There are times when I feel all they do in LA is regurgitate the same old thing time after time.

As far as House goes...about this time every season I begin to grow w e a r y of his abrasive attitude. Sigh....but I still watch.

Maybe the writer's strike will be good for ME. lol

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Found your blog...have read your books which I read instead of watching television. I have worked from home the past two years but stay away from the tv in part because studies have shown watching to be a depressant of sorts. Reading on the other hand stimulates brain cells. But does this get folks reading...nah.

My husband and I watch Amazing Race as our main tv entertainment...makes us laugh, reminds of us and how we behave on vacations. It isn't affected by the strike either. But apparently networks are going to roll out more reality shows because they don't rely on writers...and these are the ick factor reality shows...not interested.

Peace! Julie

"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and dreams, try to love the questions themselves." Rainer Maria Rilke

Anonymous said...

I love TV and movie viewing too much to cut back just because the networks don't have my favorite shows on. What most likely would happen is that I would use my Netflix subscription more and catch up on series I never watched, but have heard good things about. There are plenty of those.

Reading for me is a bedtime thing. If I try to read any other time of day, I usually fall asleep. However, I have been know to read in bed for HOURS unable to put the book down and turn off the light because I HAVE to get to the end.

Anyway, reading and tv viewing are two separate activities. One cannot replace the other in my world.

Mirtika said...

I don't believe that folks will do more reading in place of television AT THAT RATE. I think that's one of those, "Let me answer what sounds good and smart" things.

If people like the passivity of tv or films, they won't switch to books. They'll rent videos, use On Demand, watch alternate programming, or go online to web surf, play games, watch streaming video.

There are simply so many options, that this strike will bother few, I think. Me, I just move to the computer or a book or a Netflix film. I might have a moment of wanting a particular show (like when MONK or PYSCH or THE CLOSER are between seasons), but there is so much, soooooooooooo much out there, that TV has a lot of competition.

When the sttrike is over and the shows are back, people will return for their faves. We are sheep. :)


Brenda Coulter said...

I've been out of the loop for the past few days, but reading all of your responses just now has been interesting.

According to the Pepperdine survey, 42% of the respondents expect to spend more time reading during the strike. Since it's often said that habits are made or broken after six weeks of doing or not doing something, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that some people will just never go back to watching as much TV as they did before the strike.

Julie, thanks for reading my books, and welcome to my blog.