TV writers script their upcoming strike.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
Nov. 2 2007 4:35 PM

Picket Lines

TV writers script their upcoming strike.

It's the night before the Writers Guild of America is to begin its long-awaited strike, and a collection of Hollywood's most experienced TV writers have commandeered a back table at Father's Office to hammer out scenarios for what will surely be the most important gig of their careers: plotting a compelling, believable strike that will play well in middle America.

Season 1
Episode 1: Establish the premise. Comedy writer Marty Brownstein has a Harvard degree, a simmering love affair with a cute young grip, and a slovenly roommate who calls himself "The Cheese." But his world is torn asunder when he's forced to take to the picket lines and fight for the thing he holds most dear: DVD residuals. Also establish the villainous conspiracy ("The Industry"), the writing partner ("Max"), and the wacky neighbor (Bollywood).

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Episode 3: Marty and his writer buddies have to make 100 protest signs in an hour or else their picket line will be a disaster. Too bad The Cheese huffed all the ink from the permanent markers!

Episode 8: We introduce a new character: a writer from the wrong side of the tracks who has some unorthodox ideas about how to get things done in Hollywood.

Episode 9: The writer turns out to be an alien.

Episode 14: Sweeps—time for a guest star! Jimmy Hoffa Jr. comes to town to show Marty and his buddies how a professional leads a strike. Ends with Hoffa winning a jitterbug marathon at Al's Diner.

Season 2
Episode 8: The picket line is spiced up by an extended lesbian kiss. Meanwhile, Marty gets nervous when he overhears his writing partner talking about "becoming a scab," but it turns out he was only talking about his Halloween costume.

Episode 10: The picket line's flagging morale is boosted by a visit from Santa Claus, who distributes presents: a biography of George Meany for Marty, a remote-controlled car for The Cheese, and pseudonymous jobs writing Spanish soap operas for everyone. Feliz Navidad!

Episode 20: The Cheese puts itching powder in Marty's bed the day before he's scheduled to meet with an Industry official (Powers Boothe) to discuss contract terms. Talks fall apart when Marty uses the official's Mont Blanc as an impromptu back-scratcher.

Episode 21: Powers Boothe turns out to be an alien.

Season 3
Episode 3: Jimmy Hoffa Jr. returns—can he help negotiate a contract and defend his jitterbug title at the same time? He can … with the help of The Cheese's humanoid robot.

Episode 9: Marty's agent isn't calling, his checks aren't coming in, his mortgage payments are ballooning, and his girlfriend left him to take a job with Joe Francis. But in this very special episode exploring the evils of drink, Marty learns that's no reason for him to spend every night drowning his sorrows in off-brand amaretto.

Episode 14: The Industry sends some strikebreakers to infiltrate the union meetings. Although they're discovered by Marty and his friends, the strikebreakers get their revenge by pitching a reality show based on their exploits (Headbustin') to FOX, which buys 13 episodes for the Thursday night prime-time slot.

Episode 24: In a secret midnight meeting atop the Hollywood sign, Marty and an Industry official are about to come to contract terms but are stopped when a mysterious stranger, shouting, "This is evil," runs and jumps off the sign. Season-ending freeze frame on the body in midair.

Season 4
Episode 1: When the body lands, it turns out to be guest star Evel Knievel, come to lend his support to the writers' efforts. Unfortunately, he lands on Marty's car and ends up in the hospital. Although contract negotiations fall apart in the ensuing confusion, Evel pays Marty 50 bucks to come up with names for his motorcycles.

Episode 9: Musical episode! Marty and friends sing and dance their way through sassed-up versions of labor classics like "Joe Hill," "9 to 5," and "Take This Job and Shove It." They try to take their act on the road to American Idol, but are dubbed "talentless and unnecessary" by a bleary-eyed Paula Abdul.

Episode 14: The Cheese gets married in Vegas … to a woman he suspects of being an alien. She turns out to be Sandra Bernhard, and she ends up running off with The Cheese's robot.

Episode 24: Series finale! Marty wakes up and discovers it was all just a dream: His girlfriend (Suzanne Pleshette) still loves him, his agent didn't drop him, and he's still got his job on the staff of Cavemen. Then Cavemen gets canceled, and Marty spends the next three years fruitlessly pursuing freelance jobs before deciding to go to NYU for grad school. His first day on campus, the grad student union decides to strike. End with a freeze frame of Marty shrugging comically.

Movie Version
Marty, The Cheese, and a talking whale search for the lost city of Atlantis. In the end, they find that Atlantis was in their hearts all along. With Ian McKellen as Poseidon, lord of the sea.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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