Your Head Down To Your Toes

I’m feeling a little INSECURE:

ABC announced last week that production of All My Children would be moving from New York City to Los Angeles. If you thought you were surprised by the news, imagine how the cast and crew felt. There was no warning about the move and, according to Thorsten Kaye (Zach Slater), the cast has been given one week to decide if they plan to make the move to the West Coast.

One week to decide your whole life? That’s insane! It takes more than a week to plan a vacation to the opposite side of the country, let alone picking up one’s life. I’d have to imagine that there would be some sort of assurance that All My Children will be on the air for at least a few more years in order to get these stars to move. I’d be livid if I left my home in New York, moved to Los Angeles, and was told a few months later that AMC was being canceled.

What if the majority of the cast decides not to relocate? Will they cancel All My Children outright or try to do some sort of spinoff the way that Loving morphed into The City? Perhaps they’ll take the few stars that agree to move and have their characters move from Pine Valley to Los Angeles, thereby creating a brand new soap.

There’s talk that some of the veteran stars are planning a sit-in, so to speak, to prevent the show from moving. Can you imagine All My Children without David Canary (Adam/Stuart Chandler), Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin), and Susan Lucci (Erica Kane)? I know I can’t.

Last week on Regis and Kelly, Susan Lucci looked dazed as she talked about the decision to uproot AMC. You’d expect to see Susan as the show’s biggest cheerleader, talking about what an exciting opportunity and new challenge it will be to make the transcontinental move. But, no. That wasn’t her reaction. In fact, Lucci seemed to go out of her way to avoid saying that she would follow the show out West. In fairness, Lucci did applaud the move as a sign of ABC’s commitment to All My Children.

There’s no assurance that any of the show’s recurring players will continue on with the show either. Presumably many of the child actors will remain in New York, which either means there are a lot of recasts or “rapid agings” in our future.

So let’s TiVo it back a bit. Why has ABC made such a drastic decision? Quite simply, the cost of producing All My Children (and all soaps) is going up and up and the revenue coming in is, well, it’s not going in the same direction. When you can’t make ends meet, there aren’t that many options.

All My Children is going to get a new studio that is roughly twice the size of the one it uses now. On top of that, the new studio will allow ABC to broadcast All My Children in high-definition. If you can believe it, all of these changes will actually allow the show to save money. Don’t worry – I’m over here with an abacus trying to figure out it, too. With more space, All My Children can construct permanent sets that do not have to be dismantled on a regular basis. In New York, if a set isn’t needed on a given day, it has to be taken apart so that a scene that is needed can be put up in its place. This explains why some scenes seem to be overused: the show needs to reuse scenes whenever possible in order to cut the costs of assembling and disassembling the sets.

My instinctive reaction to news of Disney’s at-gunpoint order that the actors relocate to Los Angeles was a bit of blind panic, so I didn’t even notice the bonus union busting. That’s so awesome. If I hadn’t been keeping an eye on this decidedly East Coast soap for more than twenty years and didn’t love the characters I’d have to join a picket line or something. But hey, my favorite characters may not survive the move, so I may get five extra hours every week to plot revenge. Or get a life.

“Say, Ta,” you may ask, “How on earth can you care about something this trivial?” My pet, you ask the most delightful questions! I could just pinch you. The answer is pretty simple: I’m fussing over my soap opera because its current predicament is symptomatic of American society’s larger problem:

Feel like you’re working a lot harder these days, putting in longer hours for the same pay — or even less? The latest round of government data on worker productivity indicates that you probably are.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labor costs” — the amount employers paid for all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent. The jump in productivity was higher than expected; the cut in labor costs more than double expectations.

That is, despite the deep job cuts of the past year, workers who remain on the payroll are filling in and making up the work that had been done by their departed colleagues. In some cases, that extra work came with a smaller paycheck.

The higher worker output and lower labor costs have been good news for companies struggling through the worst recession since World War II. So far, some 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have turned in better-than-expected profits for the latest quarter.

But wage cuts and lost paychecks could seriously jeopardize the recovery of a U.S. economy that still relies on consumer spending for two-thirds of its power.

“You have a very severely harmed, injured consumer in terms of income slow down, job uncertainly, job loss, wealth loss, inadequate savings, high debt levels,” said Laura Tyson, an Obama advisor who headed the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton administration. “The consumer, I don’t see powering us out of this recession.”

After every story I read like this, commenter after commenter strikes another blow for corporatist oppression with the words, “Those jagoffs should be glad they have jobs.” No. That is exactly, precisely wrong, and what it does is seek to bring misery company. If someone’s unemployed, underpaid or overworked, then everyone else should be too, so that theory goes. And that’s just wrong. Okay, it’s not just wrong, it’s fucking wrong, and it’s the reason we need strong unions and elegant divas.

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