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1988 Writers Guild of America strike: Wikis


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The 1988 Writers Guild of America strike was a strike action taken by members of both the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). It ran from March 7 to August 7, 1988, for a total of 21 weeks and 6 days. Productions affected were television and movies.

It remains the longest strike in the history of the guild, surpassing the 1960 Writers Guild of America strike by one week and the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike by seven weeks.



The strike started on March 7, 1988.[1] The main disagreements in contract talks concerned reduced residuals for hour-long shows, along with reduced pay for reruns of television shows in foreign countries.[2] The strike lasted for five months before ending on August 8, 1988.[3] Over 9,000 movie and television writers had been on strike.


Networks were forced to hold back their fall scheduling until the winter period. The strike significantly shrunk average television audiences, and has had a lasting effect to this day.

The second season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "Shades of Gray" was a clip show as the bulk of this episode is composed of footage from previous TNG episodes; this is generally considered the worst episode produced in the franchise's 40+ year history.[4]

Soap operas continued to air during the strike. However, without experienced script writers many suffered in quality. At first most stories were dragged out for as long as possible, then plots lurched forward that did not leave shows in the best of shape.

After weeks of reruns, both Johnny Carson and later David Letterman crossed the picket line and resumed their shows, without writers.[5][6]

The strike did not, as some later claimed, lead to the advent of reality television, though it was responsible for the launch of the long-running series Cops on the FOX television network.[7]

Mission: Impossible was relaunched as a series, reworking old episode scripts with a new cast.



The cancellations of Moonlighting[8] and Kate & Allie have been attributed in part to audience loss stemming from the shows' long hiatuses due to the writers' strike.


The horror film Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers narrowly avoided the strike. Writer Alan B. McElroy had only 11 days in which to come up with the film's story and subsequently write the script. McElroy did just this and managed to turn the script in just hours before the strike commenced.[9]

The 1989 movie Earth Girls Are Easy was filmed during this strike; co-writer Charlie Coffey did not appear in the movie due to being on the picket lines.

According to the Ultimate James Bond DVD Collection, the movie Licence to Kill, starring Timothy Dalton, lost one of its co-writers, Richard Maibaum, forcing his partner Michael G. Wilson to finish the screenplay on his own.

Sam Hamm turned in his script for 1989's Batman just days before the writer's strike began, and was unable to write further drafts due to his involvement. Director Tim Burton and others liked the script, but thought "something" was missing. As such he brought in Beetlejuice co-writers Warren Skaaren and Charles McKeown for rewrite work. Jonathan Gems did a few weeks worth of rewriting as well.[10] All three were British as just about every single writer in America was on strike. Their draft introduced the Joker's role as the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents, a revelation Burton wanted from the beginning. Hamm, staying true to the source material, had refused to use the idea. One of the primary reasons as to why the filmmakers brought in McKeown was that they felt he could come up with more creative jokes for The Joker.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Strike Announced By Writers For TV, New York Times, March 7, 1988
  2. ^ This Writers' Strike Feels Like a Rerun From 1988, The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2007
  3. ^ Writers Ratify Contract, Ending Longest Strike, New York Times, August 8, 1988
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The ... '88 Writers Guild of America walkout ... didn't unleash a flood of reality, because filming on sitcoms and dramas had largely wrapped and because alternative shows had yet to become a trend." Writers strike means reality boom times Yahoo! News 27 November 2007.
  8. ^ "Moonlighting never recovered after going off the air during the 1988 strike." Hollywood bracing for a writers strike Los Angeles Times 28 October 2007. Subscription required.
  9. ^ Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, DVD Feature: Halloween 4 "Final Cut". Anchor Bay.
  10. ^ Salisbury, Burton, p.145
  11. ^ Salisbury, Burton, p.78-80


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