Monday, November 19

Battlestar Galactica final season in jeopardy?

Source:TV Squad

Is the final season of Battlestar Galactica in danger now because of the ongoing WGA (Writer's Guild of America) strike? According to Deadline Hollywood Daily, NBC Universal is utilizing the force majeure clause in SAG (Screen Actors Guild) agreements to suspend actors and actresses working contracts. The clause indicates studios and networks can do this if production is halted on their shows.

It looks like letters have been sent to the casts of such shows as The Office, 30 Rock, Bionic Woman and Battlestar Galactica. Sony Pictures has sent similar letters to the casts of Til Death and Rules of Engagement, indicating that more letters could be forthcoming from other studios if the strike lingers.

In the piece, one of the actors from Galactica stated that "we are on suspension without pay. We are not terminated. We are on hold to BSG with no pay in perpetuity until the strike is over. When the strike does end Universal/SciFi will then decide whether they want to bring the show back or let us go. Until that time we are in first position with BSG and will have to clear any other project with SciFi/Uni. They are not following article 61 of the SAG agreement and are about to get a lot of calls from SAG lawyers. They say that since we have shot the minimum 13 episodes of this season, as per our contracts, that they are under no obligation to pay us or let us go. We are essentially on hiatus."

This power play move essentially forbids the actors from finding work elsewhere while the show's production remains shut down. SAG says that since the terms of Article 61 are breached, actors can terminate their deals and try to find work elsewhere. All of this means that in a prolonged strike situation, actors hungry for work may try to exercise this right, terminate their contracts on their current shows and find work elsewhere.

Then, when the strike ends, the studio gets to decide if it wants to go back and finish the series, and for any actors who've opted out of their contracts, they'd have to be resigned to new contracts. To fans of the show, like myself, this is a no-brainer. Rehire everyone and finish it up, right? But to network bigwigs, it comes down to the bottom line. BSG ratings have slipped since its premiere, and a prolonged break between halves of its final season could impact those numbers even more. And what if a shiny new show comes along in the meantime with big ratings? On the other side, if a principal actor sings a conflicting contract on another project, they might not even be available to return. Depending on how it shakes out, will it be worth it to the network to bother finishing the series?

While this scenario could impact any shows in which these letters have been sent, with BSG filming its final seasons, you'd have to figure that a secondary actor on that show would be much more likely to jump on another job opportunity than someone on a show that has a future beyond a few more episodes, like The Office. Ron Moore, on his blog, says "I refuse to believe that we won't finish, that we won't be back to film our final stories, but I know and accept there is that possibility. The strike will be a seminal event for many of us in this business as it's put literally everything we care about in the balance (if only for a short time so far) for something we all believe is important. ... Galactica's coming back, I frakking promise you that. But I am ready to put the rest of the story on the table and take the risk that I'll never be able to tell it, in support of this strike. Like Adama says, you make your choices and then you live with them."

Of course, in the worst possible scenario, he could always continue the series in comics the way Joss Whedon is doing with both Buffy and Angel. He's already got BSG comics coming out, so the deal is in place. Or go straight to film a la Whedon's Firefly. Wow, come to think of it, Whedon really doesn't know when to let go. His series end and he has to find a way to keep them going. That's either perseverance or stubbornness. But the man finds a way to make it happen. Maybe we need to get him into the negotiating room after Thanksgiving?

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