An 'exceptional' deal ends the writers strike

The monthslong work stoppage is finally over as the WGA secures a historic three-year contract. PLUS: The latest episode of 'Ahsoka,' Dan Harmon speaks, and is 'The Office' reopening?

An 'exceptional' deal ends the writers strike
A picket line in New York City. / Creative Commons

For the first Friday edition of Popculturology in a long time, the Writers Guild of America is no longer on strike! Woo! Friday!

We just finished up a rewatch of The League. It was a race against time, since we realized that Hulu is on the verge of losing the show. Not sure where (if anywhere) it’s going next, but it’s another example of how the streaming era has failed viewers.

Let’s dive into this week’s newsletter …

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🪧 “This deal is exceptional”

The writers strike is over! After 148 days, members of the Writers Guild of America returned to work on Thursday. In the end, the WGA secured a deal that its negotiating committee called “exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

From every angle of coverage of the three-year deal, it’s obvious that the studios lost this battle on every front. Writers rooms. The use of AI. And the public relations battle. The AMPTP’s alleged goal of allowing “things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses” backfired as the WGA stood united with SAG-AFTRA.

For a full rundown of what the WGA achieved with this contract, check out this website.

  • Network late-night shows return on Monday: The four major late-night shows (The Tonight Show, The Late Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night) are wasting no time, with the announcement on Wednesday that they’ll all beg back this coming Monday. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight will return this Sunday. With SAG-AFTRA still on strike, the late-night shows will be without the usual roster of actors promoting movies and shows. I’d expect to see musicians and athletes making the rounds until the studios agree to SAG-AFTRA’s terms too. (Late Night revealed on Thursday that Seth Meyers will spend his first episode back doing an hourlong “A Closer Look.”)
  • Live from New York in October? After cutting its previous season three episodes short, Saturday Night Live will possibly return as soon as Oct. 7 or Oct. 14, according to Deadline. The continuing actors strike, though, could complicate things. Not only would potential hosts stay away from SNL, but castmembers themselves could be wary of crossing SAG-AFTRA’s picket lines.
  • Back to work: The Hollywood Reporter breaks down which shows the networks and studios will prioritize as the industry scrambles to get up to speed.
  • Should’ve waited: Turns out Drew Barrymore only needed to wait a week or two for the writers strike to end instead of tanking her reputation.
  • SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP to meet: With the WGA deal now in place, the studios still have to agree to a fair deal with the actors guild. SAG-AFTRA announced on Wednesday that the two sides will resume talks on Monday.


🤵🏼‍♂️ Is Christopher Nolan finally going to direct a James Bond movie?

OK, here’s one that I’d definitely take with a grain of salt. Multiple grains of salt. There’s a report out there that Christopher Nolan is pretty far in talks to direct not just one but two or three James Bond movies.

From a report by World of Reel, the deal hinges heavily on the Oppenheimer director’s requests for creative control being met. This could be a sticking point, as Nolan often seeks more creative control than most directors — an issue when the producers/gatekeepers of the Bond franchise are notorious for maintaining a high level control over these movies.

The report claims that Aaron Taylor-Johnson, best known as Kick-Ass along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Quicksilver, appears to be the favorite to replace Daniel Craig as Bond. Nolan’s films would allegedly be period pieces instead of once more trying to figure out Bond’s place in the modern world.

Like I said, take this one with several grains of salt. Nolan’s name has often been connected with the Bond franchise, but this sounds like the closest the two sides have ever gotten to making the pairing a reality.

Read the story at World of Reel.


🎞️ Wish’s talking goat and adorable star are going to steal the movie

Disney released a new trailer for Wish, the studio’s upcoming animated film, on Wednesday. Yes, Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine sound fantastic as Asha and King Magnifico, but Alan Tudyk’s talking goat (who sounds exactly like how he voices Harley Quinn’s Clayface) and that adorable star are going to be the film’s breakouts.


“At one point, I was sure I had either a tumor or that I was going to have a heart attack”

Dan Harmon gets very personal in a new piece for The Hollywood Reporter. The Community creator and Rick and Morty co-creator touches on a bunch of topics, including the deterioration of his partnership with Justin Roiland and the future of Community.

  • Harmon and Roiland haven’t talked since 2019: Harmon revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that the duo last spoke over text, with Harmon telling his former creative partner: “I am worried about you, and I don’t know what to do about that except to give you all the string and also just say I’m scared that you’re not going to come back.” The article also states that after “pulling back” during Season 2 of Rick and Morty, Roiland “simply stopped showing up.”

  • The new Rick and Morty voices are humans, not AI: After Adult Swim released the first trailer for Season 7 of Rick and Morty, people started questioning whether the replacement voices for Roiland were actually people or if they were voice AI. The Hollywood Reporter writes that the show “hired two young, unknown voice actors for the roles of Rick and Morty, a process that Harmon says he largely avoided, mostly out of denial.” 

  • There has been talk of a Rick and Morty movie: Harmon describes it as a “super episode.” It’s unclear if that movie is still in the works.

  • Harmon suffered panic attacks after being fired from Community: “At one point, I was sure I had either a tumor or that I was going to have a heart attack, and my wife at the time [fellow comedian Erin McGathy] kept saying, ‘You got fired from your NBC show and you haven’t acknowledged it yet,’ and of course she was right,” Harmon told The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t acknowledging that I was hurt. I never would have wanted to admit that. Instead, I was so offended by the idea that I was that trite a character. Having dizzy spells [because I lost my job?] Like, I’m not written by a hack.”

  • The Community movie is still in the works: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Harmon describes the long-awaited Community movie as “a Greendale Community College reunion.” But Harmon wants to have a script set before shooting. “I don’t want these now-superstar people, like Emmy-winning Donald Glover, who are bothering to gather out of loyalty to this thing, to come back and once again be getting blue pages run down by an intern that totally contradict what they spent all night memorizing,” Harmon told The Hollywood Reporter.

Read the story at The Hollywood Reporter.


📄 The Office prepares to reopen

In news that’s only surprising since it took this long to possibly happen, The Office is coming back. A recent Puck story included the nugget that Greg Daniels, creator of the U.S. version of The Office, was ready to get moving on a new series once the writers strike was over.

OK, first off, everyone has to stop calling this a “reboot.” The word you’re looking for is “sequel.” Or “relaunch.” Something is not a reboot if characters from the original movie or series still exist and are played by the actors who originally played them. Batman Begins was a reboot. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a relaunch. Unless this new Office series is going to reset everything and have Timothée Chalamet playing Michael Scott, it’s not a reboot.

Jason Tabrys over at Uproxx broke down which characters were likely to come back for a sequel series. Lots of good points in his piece, but here’s the truth about any Office relaunch: None of the original characters played by actors who would come back as a star could carry the show as its star.

Sure, maybe Rainn Wilson wants to come back, but The Office’s attempts to seed a backdoor pilot for a Dwight spinoff in its final season were a disaster. Dwight can never be the star of The Office. If The Office really is coming back, Daniels has to cast a big-ish name as the boss, bring back some of the supporting characters from the original run and hope to get lucky with new actors who can click with viewers like Jim and Pam did.

Read the story at Vulture.


Ray Stevenson and Rosario Dawson in Ahsoka. / Lucasfilm

Ahsoka finale looms

One episode of Ahsoka left to go. “Dreams and Madness” left us with a ton left to resolve in next week’s finale. Overall, I think Ahsoka has gotten better as it’s gotten deeper into this season, especially now that we’ve gotten past the “Ahsoka needs to learn her lesson but we’re not going to ever explain why” stage.

  • Hello, Ezra: Eman Esfandi is excellent as Ezra Bridger. Absolutely nailing the character. This episode had some classic Ezra moments: His declaration that he needed only the Force to defend himself only to pick up a blaster. The singeing of his hair thanks to Shin’s lightsaber.
  • Spill it, Sabine: Poor Ezra, though. No clue about the massive secret that Sabine is hiding from him. Thanks to her, Ezra’s sacrifice that took Thrawn far, far away from the galaxy has been undone. I hate these stories where one characters plays cutesy about telling a secret like this. (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania couldn’t get enough of this dumb tactic with Janet van Dyne.)
  • Already missing Ray Stevenson: How great is Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll? He’s one of the coolest things to happen to Star Wars during the Disney era. The perfect match of an actor with a character. While it’s unclear if Baylan’s storyline goes past the next episode, Stevenson sadly passed away after filming Ahsoka. If there’s more Baylan in the future, Lucasfilm is going to have to find another actor to step into the role.
  • Who is calling to Baylan? I can’t see this season of Ahsoka ending, though, without the reveal of what or who was calling Baylan to Peridea. I’m betting on some type of magical/mystical/Force evil. Everyone thinks that Dave Filoni’s movie tying up The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka is going to be purely New Republic versus the Thrawn-led Imperial Remnant. But what if there’s something that forces them to unite together to defeat?
  • Shin Hati’s future: She’s going to break good, right? Ahsoka could use another apprentice.
  • Sure would be great if Lucasfilm would cast new actors for legacy characters: Yes, it was cool to see C-3PO in this episode. But he was only there since Lucasfilm refuses to cast new actors in legacy roles like Leia and Luke. (Kathy Kennedy ridiculously blames the casting of Alden Ehrenreich for Solo’s box office failure.) I’m begging you, Lucasfilm, bring in new actors — real actors, not body doubles that you’ll CGI a face on later — in to play these roles. Especially if you wind up making Luke Skywalker a major character in Filoni’s movie.
  • Was that Anthony Daniels? Speaking of C-3PO, I could’ve sworn that someone else besides Anthony Daniels was inside his gold shell. Something about the character’s posture didn’t match how we’ve long seen C-3PO presented. According to Entertainment Weekly, the 77-year-old Daniels did play C-3PO in this episode.
  • Yeesh, the New Republic: The New Republic is pretty awful, huh? No wonder the First Order was able to easily wipe it out.


Comedy Central looks for Daily Show options beyond Hasan Minhaj

Before the writers strike, the search for the next host of The Daily Show appeared to be down to Hasan Minhaj and Kal Penn. In the aftermath of The New Yorker’s recent piece looking into the truthiness of Minhaj’s standup stories, Comedy Central may restart the search, according to Variety.

The Paramount Global cable network is considering a wider array of candidates to take the reins of the program from previous emcee Trevor Noah, according to people familiar with the matter, after having previously identified Hasan Minhaj as a leading possibility. The decision appears to come in the wake of a recent report in The New Yorker in which some of the supposedly autobiographical stories that Minhaj has used in his routines were found to be embellished.

I honestly don’t know why Comedy Central doesn’t just go with Roy Wood Jr. or Desi Lydic. Both excellent options. Both already on The Daily Show.

Read the story at Variety.


James Gunn clarifies that the the DCU will be confusing for awhile

The transition from the DCEU to the DCU hasn’t been a clean one. On top of several films from the old regime still hitting theaters (The Flash, Blue Beetle, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom), there’s the fact that several upcoming projects continue to use preexisting DCEU characters and castings. (Is the Amanda Waller project DCU canon since it stars Viola Davis, who played that role in The Suicide Squad, Suicide Squad and Peacemaker? Is the second season of Peacemaker canon since it’s, well, the second season?)

DC Studios co-chief James Gunn attempted to clear up the confusion this week, posting his thoughts on the matter on Threads.

“Nothing is canon until Creature Commandos next year - a sort of aperitif to the DCU - & then a deeper dive into the universe with Superman: Legacy after that,” Gunn posted. “It’s a very human drive to want to understand everything all the time, but I think its okay to be confused on what’s happening in the DCU since no one has seen anything from the DCU yet.”

OK, so the animated Creature Commandos show and then Superman: Legacy reset things. Got it.

“And, yes, some actors will be playing characters they’ve played in other stories & some plot points might be consistent with plot points from the dozens of films, shows & animated projects that have come from DC in the past,” Gunn continued. “But nothing is canon until CC and Legacy. 🧜‍♂️”

Huh. Welp, at least we can expect a few more years of confusion.


🎞️ “Here we go”

Director Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming film looks fantastic. Look at that cast: Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Dua Lipa, John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson! I wonder what the “it’s time for you to meet the real Agent Argylle” twist is …


The movie based on the musical based on Mean Girls gets a theatrical release

Paramount won’t give up on trying to make Mean Girls happen. After turning the 2004 film (which itself was based on 2002 book) into a musical that ran from 2017 to 2020, the studio has been working on a movie based on the musical. After originally being targeted as a Paramount+ streaming release, the upcoming Mean Girls: The Musical movie has been shifted to a Jan. 12, 2024 theatrical release.

Read the story at Deadline.



That’s what the money is for!

The Golden Globes will have two new categories beginning with the 2024 awards season: Cinematic and Box Office Achievement and Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy on Television.

While an award specifically for standup performances actually makes a ton of sense, an award for movies that have “grossed at least $150 million during release, $100 million of which must have come from domestic box office” is pretty ridiculous. As Don Draper once said, “that’s what the money is for!

The Golden Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have no shame when it comes to this kind of move. This boils down to a way to eliminate indie films from a Best Picture category. (The $100 million domestic barrier is not a high barrier to entry. Twenty films have done so in 2023 — The Flash being one of them.)

Read the story at Variety.

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