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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

You know that moment, in slasher movies, when the promiscuous teens who have been racing around the old barn, trying desperately to avoid the psycho killer, finally get him, somehow? Usually, it's the girl in the third-tightest t-shirt (the girls in the first two have already been dispatched, in order of tightness) who hits him with a rock, or a pole, or stabs him with a pitchfork -- one of those; it's been a long time since I actually watched one, and for some reason they don't send them out with the academy screeners.

And so the psycho slasher is down, pitchfork sticking out of his chest, in the background, and in the foreground the girl in the third-tightest t-shirt and her slightly vacant boyfriend embrace, relieved. Whew, they say. Glad that's over. Glad that guy's dead. One hundred percent dead and gone. Why, there's no way he couldn't be dead, and we're so sure of it, we're not even going to bother turning around to confirm that fact.

And in the background, of course, the psycho killer silently rises.

They call it, I'm told, the second-act boo, or the third-act boo, depending on where you are in the script, and whether the cut-rate bucket-shop studio even bothers to pay for a third act. It's the moment when everything's okay, everything's okay, crisis over, back to normal, what's that noise?

Which is sort of where we are now. Seven days after the writers' strike officially ended. Things are back to normal -- oh, sure, pilot season seems a little rushed, but honestly, it always seems a little rushed. I can't remember a year when I didn't have a Sunday afternoon conference call to hop on, or an impossible draft deadline. And as rushed and frantic as it is, it's never so rushed or so frantic or so hurried that every single executive still on the payroll (and surprise! Even after four months, they're all still on the payroll!) doesn't build a little time into the process to deliver a set of script notes. We're in a time crunch, sure. But I'm making it better.

So it's easy to forget that only a few weeks ago, we were all squeezing on our thinking caps and trying to figure out where the business was headed. Some of us were driving up to Palo Alto with a business plan on the MacBook, ready to Powerpoint our way through a lot of Venture Capital offices, some of us were writing dirt-cheap indie features, some of us were taking the Series 7 exam -- you know, to diversify -- but I don't think any of us ever imagined that when this thing was over, it would be so suddenly, so completely a non-topic. I know people who still want to talk about voting machines in Ohio during the 2004 election. I know people who still want to talk about why Arrested Development was cancelled. But I don't know anyone who really wants to talk about new media residuals in year two, or the three-week window, or, you know, that stuff.

I've got a script to write, for a network that is, apparently, having an upfront presentation in New York in May, and there are a lot of writers in that same boat. There are a lot of us who have spent the past four months getting chased around the old barn -- in loose, flowing t-shirts, to be sure, some even with ironic sayings -- but still, chased, terrorized by the slasher killer of the future: a collapsing back-end, squeezed margins, lower fees, fewer deals, a tight contraction of the business as a whole. We suddenly saw ourselves stripped of our princely perks and shoved around like reality writers, computer game coders, web video entrepreneurs. Open up the barn door, and the killer is there with an axe, ready to chop off your private school tuition. Race down to the basement, and there he is again, with a saw, to saw off your housekeeping deal. Hide in the bathroom, and he's there, behind the shower curtain, with a straight razor to slice your episode fees in half.

And then, suddenly, two weeks ago, he's dead. And everything's back to normal. We're safe. We're safe and happy and glad that's over. Glad that guy's dead. One hundred percent dead and gone. Why, there's no way he couldn't be dead, and we're so sure of it, we're not even going to bother turning around to confirm that fact.

What's that noise?

That's it for this week. Next week, a full recovery. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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