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The members of the WGA, the union that represents most film and television writers, are on strike. For audiences, this means production has halted for most film and TV series. While the main Yellowstone series is ending on Paramount Network, a(nother) spin-off series has been greenlit for the cable channel and it will also air on sister streaming channel Paramount+. Big Mouth spin-off Human Resources announces Miley Cyrus, Florence Pugh, and more will guest-star for season 2. A Babylon 5 animated movie is in the works at Warner Bros. Plus, trailers for the new Apple TV+ series Silo and season 16 of FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and more of the past week’s biggest news in TV and streaming.
At 12:01 a.m. PT on Tuesday, May 2, the Writers Guild of America officially went on strike.
Unionized TV and film writers across the country have shut down Final Draft, closed their laptops, and (if they’re Quentin Tarantino), shut their notepad and put away their worn-out pencils. Instead, these professional scribes and allies grabbed picket signs and are attending in-person protest lines. The main goal? Obtaining a livable wage during a time where studios have reaped huge profits from streaming programming.
It’s been 15 years since the WGA last went on strike. It lasted 100 days, running from November 5, 2007 through to February 12, 2008. During that era, streaming was in its infancy (still referred to as “new media” and mostly limited to self-produced web series that weren’t owned by giant corporations like Netflix) and the amount of originally scripted programming was nowhere near the hundreds of options available for viewing today. Since then, every three years, the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), have been successful in renewing mutually agreed upon contracts. However, on Monday night, the negotiations between the two groups (which had been meeting for a month) failed to reach an agreement.
Questions about how this strike will impact your favorite shows and movies, as well as the industry as a whole, are at the forefront of many peoples’ minds.
What are the writers asking for and what does this mean for audiences at home? Let’s break things down …
The short answer: money. The longer answer is that this money comes from different places.
In addition to the seasonal salaries that TV writers receive for working on their series, they are also paid through residuals. These are ad revenue-generated checks that come every time an episode (or a movie) they wrote airs on TV (residuals also come for actors and other people who work on the production). For major shows that continue to have long lives in syndication, like Seinfeld or The Office, this is a huge deal.
But as streaming has grown to dominate the television landscape, seasonal paychecks have plummeted thanks to shorter episode orders (which means less weeks of work and, therefore, less weekly paychecks as well as smaller writing staffers and, therefore, less jobs). To complicate things, many cable and broadcast network shows are now also available on streaming. There is the issue that episodes of popular programs, like Law & Order or Chicago Fire or Abbott Elementary that are viewed on streaming services after they air on their original broadcast home could result in little or no payout for the people who wrote for those shows– especially because of streamers’ notoriously cagey details on viewer metrics.
Good thing I, as the writer of this episode, do not benefit from this success because of the current streaming residuals model pic.twitter.com/U5u93ynjKa
— Brittani Nichols *Strike Version* (@BisHilarious) May 4, 2023
Other hot-buttons issue are health insurance and how the rise of AI and how the technology may impact TV and film scripts.
The news also comes amid reports of studio mergers, canceled projects and layoffs … and executives with lavish salaries that suggest the money is there (somewhere).
Adam Conover, the comedian, writer, and creator of the TruTV series Adam Ruins Everything, broke it down in a recent interview with CNN anchor Sara Sidner: “David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery … was paid $250 million last year, a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s about the same level as what 10,000 writers are asking him to pay all of us collectively. So I would say if you’re being paid $250 million — these companies are making enormous amounts of money. Their profits are going up. It’s ridiculous for them to plead poverty.”
Went on CNN to explain why writers are striking, ended up roasting their bosses' salary. pic.twitter.com/Si4HHDVuM8
— Adam Conover (@adamconover) May 2, 2023
Similar to the 2007-2008 strike, late-night programs immediately shuttered production. These include NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, along with HBO’s weekly news programs Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher and NBC’s weekly sketch comedy mainstay Saturday Night Live.
Due to the strike coming at the end of the broadcast season, fans of those programming will not see much hiccups in those schedules. Things may be more complicate for cable and streaming. According to Variety, the production of season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, won’t halt production as all the scripts were finished before the strike began. The second season of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power will allegedly move forward with its production, albeit without any showrunners on set. And The Wrap reported that the strike will not impact any of AMC’s programming, which include new seasons of Fear the Walking Dead and Interview with the Vampire.
Season 2 of Prime Video’s Good Omens has also been completed and will air sometime this summer. However, creator Neil Gaiman — like all Guild members — will not be able to promote the show if the strike continues until then.
I'm in the Writers Guild of America. I wish this wasn't happening and support it absolutely. When I wake up tomorrow I'll be on strike. (To forestall the inevitable questions, Good Omens 2 is completed and handed in. Although I may not be able to promote it as I had hoped.) https://t.co/sc64H4bm5E
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) May 2, 2023
Netflix’s Cobra Kai, ABC’s Abbott Elementary, and Showtime’s Yellowjackets have all halted their writers rooms. Deadline has added the CBS daytime series The Talk, NBC’s sitcom Night Court, and Starz’s drama Power Book III: Raising Kanan to that list. According to the LA Times, writing on the fifth season of Stranger Things began in August, but there has been no comment by streaming parent Netflix regarding the status of that production. Max’s Emmy-winning comedy hit Hacks has shut down its production for season 3.
With a plethora of content banked by streamers and the power to buy completed international programming, the short-term threat of this strike for viewers may not seem that big … yet. But contract renewals for both the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) are also coming up.
Yellowstone, the Kevin Costner-starring Western epic that kicked off Taylor Sheridan’s hugely successful TV franchise, will end on Paramount Network after its current season. But Paramount Network and sister streaming platform Paramount+ announced plans to continue growing the story universe with a sequel that’ll pick up where the current series ends.
Yellowstone follows the Dutton family. Led by patriarch John Dutton (Costner), the family controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. The drama deals with shifting alliances, unsolved murders, open wounds, and hard-earned respect from family members and outsiders from an expanding town that include an Indian reservation and vicious business rivalries.
Of the new show, David Glasser, CEO of producer company 101 Studios, said in a statement that it will see the “Dutton story continu[e], picking up where Yellowstone leaves off in another epic tale. We are thrilled to bring this new journey to audiences around the world,”
Paramount+ has already had success with two Yellowstone prequels: 1883, which stars Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, and Isabel May, and 1923, which is led by Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. This would be the first sequel series in the franchise.
“We do not know when it will be safe to go outside,” Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) said in the opening moments of the newest Silo trailer. “We only know that today is not that day.”
Based on Hugh Howey’s self-published literary phenomenon, Silo‘s 10-episode first season stars Oyelowo, Rebecca Ferguson, Tim Robbins, Rashida Jones, and Common. It is set in a future world after a mass pandemic. Now, thousands of survivors reside inside a gargantuan silo that extends hundreds of stories beneath the ground.
They are told that the world outside of these walls is lethal. And this “truth” has helped to maintain order for hundreds of years.
Silo premieres Friday, May 5 on Apple TV+.
More trailers and teasers released this week:
• The Tower 2: Death Message has Tahirah Sharif and Gemma Whelan return to their roles as rookie Police Constable Lizzie Adama and Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins. They investigate a reopened cold case that takes an unexpected turn. Premieres May 16. (BritBox)
• SisterS is a comedy-drama starring Sarah Goldberg and Susan Stanley. It’s about absentee parents whose damage still impacts their adult children and the macabre humor that can come with trauma. Premieres May 17. (IFC and AMC+)
• The Secrets of Hillsong is a docuseries that examines the megachurch’s long pattern of covering up misconduct to protect itself. It features the first interviews with former pastors Carl and Laura Lentz since their public ouster from a church that counted musicians, actors, athletes and other celebrities among its flock. Premieres May 19. (FX)
• With Love season 2 remains a heart-warming series created by One Day a at a Time’s Gloria Calderón Kellett. It continues to focus on siblings Lily (Emeraude Toubia) and Jorge (Mark Indelicato) Diaz, as well as their extended (if a bit nosy) family as they navigate big life changes. Premieres June 2. (Prime Video)
• Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story is the next installment of Monster, the true-crime anthology series from creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan (Dahmer). It is about the two brothers who were convicted of murdering their parents in their Beverly Hills home. Premieres 2024. (Netflix)
• It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is back for season 16. And hoo golly, is it going to be a doozy! The Gang is ripping straight from the headlines as they yearn for the past and attempt to survive the year. Plus, a few figures from their past rear their heads. Premieres June 7. (FX and FXX)
• Top Boy, UK’s hit gritty crime drama returns for its third, and final, season. The stakes are at their highest and it’s time for the final reckoning. Premieres September 2023. (Netflix)
• The Eric Andre Show season 6 promises pampered celebrities regretting their choices, rappers getting the runaround, and a slate of street pranks so egregious they collectively inspired a record 30 phone calls to 911. Premieres June 4. (Adult Swim on HBO Max)
• Searching for Soul Food follows rockstar celebrity chef Alisa Reynolds as she discovers what soul food looks like around the world. Premieres June 2. (Hulu)
• Prehistoric Planet season 2, from executive producers Jon Favreau and Mike Gunton and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, combines award-winning wildlife filmmaking, the latest paleontology learnings, and state-of-the-art technology to unveil the spectacular habitats and inhabitants of ancient Earth for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. Premieres May 22. (Apple TV+)
For all the latest TV and streaming trailers subscribe to the Rotten Tomatoes TV YouTube channel.
The hormone monsters are back for a second, and final, season of Netflix’s Human Resources. And some new friends are joining them.
Florence Pugh, Miley Cyrus, Eugene Levy and Isabella Rossellini have all acquired guest starring roles in the upcoming 10-episode installment of the raunchier (and adult-ier) spin-off to Netflix’s hit animated series Big Mouth. It June 9.
Human Resources pulls back the curtain on the daily lives of the Hormone Monsters, Depression Kitties, Shame Wizards, and other creatures that help guide humans (or at least humans from Big Mouth) on the journeys through from puberty to parenthood to old age.
Other cast members including returning stars Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, David Thewlis, Aidy Bryant, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Keke Palmer and Randall Park and returning guest stars Hugh Jackman, Pamela Adlon, Rosie Perez, Henry Winkler, Thandiwe Newton, Jemaine Clement, Maria Bamford, Bobby Cannavale and Cole Escola. Other new guest stars include Sam Richardson, Neicy Nash-Betts and Jason Mantzoukas.
Netflix has ordered military-themed comedy-drama series The Corps (wt), based on Greg Cope White’s memoir The Pink Marine. Set in 1990, The Corps centers on a bullied, gay high school student named Cameron (to be played by Miles Heizer), who joins the Marine Corps with his straight best friend, Ray (Liam Oh). The duo head into Marine Corps boot camp, where the landmines are both literal and metaphorical. Other cast members announced for the series are Vera Farmiga, who has been cast as Cameron’s mom Barbara Cope, and Max Parker, who will play elite Recon Marine Sgt. Sullivan.
Freida Pinto has been cast in season 2 of Surface as Grace, Quinn’s (series newcomer Phil Dunster) conflicted fiancé. (Variety)
Jesse Spencer will return as Matt Casey in the season 11 finale of Chicago Fire, set to air on NBC on May 24. (Variety)
Tracy Morgan will appear as the Easter Bunny in season 2 of Disney+’s The Santa Clauses. (Deadline)
Nick Cannon will fill in as host of Fox’s Beat Shazam after Jamie Foxx’s three week-long hospitalization, which was due to an undisclosed medical emergency. (Variety)
Pro wrestling icon Chris Jericho will star in UPtv’s original movie County Hearts as father, ranch owner, and rock star, Bones Jamieson. The movie will premiere to the streamer this fall. (Variety)
Neil Patrick Harris, Bianca Del Rio, Haneefah Wood, and David Burtka star, with host Murray Hill, alongside 40 stunning drag queens in Hulu’s upcoming 10-episode series Drag Me To Dinner. It premieres May 31.
A Babylon 5 animated movie is in the works at Warner Bros. Animation and WB Home Entertainment. Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski shared the news on Twitter, promising that an update on the project’s movie title, release date, and other details to come next week.
BABYLON 5 ANIMATED MOVIE coming from Warner Bros. Animation & WB Home Entertainment! Classic B5: raucous, heartfelt, nonstop, a ton of fun through time and space & a love letter to the fans. Movie title, release date and other details coming one week from today. #B5AnimatedMovie pic.twitter.com/5ylImI65mm
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) May 3, 2023
The original sci-fi series took place on Babylon 5, a space station and port of call that existed in neutral space that offered a place of respite for travelers, smugglers, alien diplomats, and more as a constant threat of war loomed. Bruce Boxleitner, Michael O’Hare, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, and Richard Briggs starred in the five-season space opera, which ran from 1993 to 1998. The show spawned the TNT spin-off series Crusade and has also inspired numerous novels and comic book runs.
Straczynski revealed in an additional tweet that the new original movie is “already finished and in the can.”
Zack Snyder’s Norse mythology-inspired Netflix animated series Twilight of the Gods will be made with the help of Xilam Animation. (Variety)
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine is partnering with Formula 1 on a yet-to-be-titled docuseries following the female drivers of Formula 1’s F1 Academy. The project has yet to find a home on TV or streaming. (THR)
HBO Max may no longer want to be in a committed relationship with F-Boy Island. But the hit reality dating show has rebounded with The CW. The broadcast network has picked up the dating series for a third season and has also ordered the gender-flipped spin-off series F-Girl Island. Comedian Nikki Glaser will continue her hosting duties on both programs.
Amazon Freevee has ordered reality competition series The GOAT, to be hosted by Daniel Tosh. It will follow 14 reality TV celebrities as they compete in a series of mental, physical, and social challenges, all with the goal of being titled “the greatest of all time.” (Variety)
Trevor Noah will step behind the camera as producer of Amazon Freevee’s U.S. adaptation of U.K. weekly hit series, Mock the Week. Set to go into production in 2024, the program will feature a blend of talk show elements, stand up comedy, improv games, and a head-to-head competition between two teams of comics who will do their best to satirize the week’s news and pop culture events. A host for the series will be picked at a later date. (Variety)
We Live Here: The Midwest, a documentary from filmmakers David Miller and Melinda Maerker that explores personal stories of LGBTQI+ families striving to build lives in red state communities who oppose their lifestyle, has been acquired by Hulu. (Deadline)
A docuseries about Jerry Jones, the owner, president, and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, is in the works at Skydance Media. This marks the first project from joint venture between Skydance Media and the NFL, which recently partnered up with the goal of creating a premier sports-content studio. (Variety)
Sony Pictures TV has acquired the rights to adapt comedian and writer Zach Zimmerman’s memoir Is it Hot in Here? (Or Am I Suffering for All Eternity for the Sins I Committed on Earth) to TV. The collection of essays explore Zimmerman’s transformation from straight, meat-eating, Southern Baptist to queer, vegetarian, atheist socialist. (Variety)
Mafia Spies, a new six-part docuseries adapted from the book, Mafia Spies: The Inside Story of the CIA, Gangsters, JFK, and Castro by Thomas Maier, has been put into development at Paramount+. The story is based on never-before-released JFK files and will connect the dots between the CIA, the mob, and Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. (Variety)
(Photo by Amazon Studios)
From The Wheel of Time and Reacher to Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, Mozart in the Jungle, and Bosch, Amazon announced that more than 100 Amazon Originals will make the move from Prime Video and will street free on the ad-supported sister streaming service, Freevee. Additional titles with be launching every month.
Beginning on May 26, customers will be able to stream the first three episodes of Amazon Original The Summer I Turned Pretty for free, exclusively on Freevee. The entire first seasons of Prime Video series Reacher and The Wheel of Time will be available to Amazon Freevee viewers later this year, as well.
Other series launching in May will include the first three episodes of A League of Their Own, the Chris Pratt-fronted series The Terminal List, and genre series Paper Girls.