In the honored tradition of print columnists, it's time once again, a day before Thanksgiving (actual time), to look inward and recognize those things I'm thankful for, late 2007 edition.
- I'm thankful I'm not on strike. The weather here in New York has been cold, wet and everything in between and the mere thought of joining the East Coast TV writers walking the picket lines on Madison Avenue last week makes me shiver. Plus losing paychecks and possibly suffering through the demise of my TV-show employer would be awfully stressful.
Walking through Midtown the other day, leaving Sci Fi Channel's Tin Man premiere party on Nov. 14, I passed the pickets outside Spring Awakening, a Broadway show I enjoyed attending with other contributors to Cable Positive two months ago. I lament the loss (hopefully temporary) of that fine show and others due to the stagehands' work stoppage. Workers need to do what's right for them, and I do agree with the striking guild that writers should get paid fairly for digitally distributed TV shows that people pay for or that ads are sold against. But I also hope it doesn't take a five-month strike, like in 1988, to find an acceptable compromise.
As Turner Broadcasting System CEO Phil Kent said in accepting a Women In Cable Telecommunications award for TNT's The Closer last week, television is a writer's medium.
- Corollary to last note: I'm thankful the fifth and final season of HBO's The Wire, returning in January, is all written and not affected by the strike. I'm deeply worried about 24 though. The Shield wrapped without Shawn Ryan's oversight? Sad.
- I'm thankful I don't live in a region prone to destructive wildfires, like Southern California, or flooding, as New Orleans ominously re-experienced about the same time as the California fires (and about a week after I visited the Big Easy with some cable officials scouting the area ahead of next May's Cable Show there). Kudos to the cable operators in So. Cal. who restored service in affected areas so rapidly last month.
- I'm thankful New York is one of the 18 states that already banned exclusive cable-TV provider contracts in apartment buildings, even before the Federal Communications Commission decided that was a pressing issue.
That freedom allowed me to switch from one cable provider (an overbuilder) to another when I was annoyed with how the first provider handled a changeover in interactive guides. Note to Time Warner Cable with its new Mystro-based OCAP HD-DVR guide that failed to record Torchwood a couple of weeks ago and forced me to reboot when it froze during a playback last night: I can always switch back.
- I'm thankful we finally got an HDTV set, or at least I think I am. As is stated elsewhere in this issue, including in the cartoon on the next page, a bad picture looks really bad on a big HD screen. So you get hooked on deeper and richer HD pictures — pretty soon you're mainlining ESPN and Discovery HD, veering over to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS for the helicopter shots of Vegas. I fear a new buying cycle of HD programming in my household.
- I'm thankful there are still some black-tie events on the cable event circuit. Not too many, but a few. The WICT annual gala in Washington, D.C., is one of the holdouts, and I heard several people comment about how nicely everyone dressed up.
The crowded cable event calendar is likely to see some future clustering around the two “big” events of the year — the National Show in the spring and the CTAM Summit in the fall. I've been impressed with the attitude taken by organizations affected by this prospective shift, which sounds like it will alter the 2009 calendar.
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the WICT chairwoman, said she's told her staff to find ways to capitalize on it positively, taking advantage of the large built-in audiences at the lodestone events. This magazine has a stake in the event calendar: the “Wonder Women” luncheon, held annually with WICT's New York chapter, is part of a “Spring Break” week that looks vulnerable. But like everything else in a consolidating industry, events must adapt to reality, demonstrate they're worth the time and expense, and change or die.
- I'm thankful Kevin Martin doesn't hate me.
Thanks for listening.