Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Residents find ways to cope with Hollywood writers’ strike

Reality shows, rentals are among the popular alternatives

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After more than 10,000 Hollywood writers went on strike in November, Tony Sellers began growing a beard.

The 23-year-old La Plata resident said it was to show solidarity with Conan O’Brien, the popular late-night television host who grew a beard of his own in January to show his support for the striking writers.

‘‘It’s cool that Conan is staying on,” said Sellers, who works at a Blockbuster in Upper Marlboro.

While O’Brien continues to air new episodes of his show, countless other shows are stuck in reruns as the Hollywood writers and producers wrestle with the strike, leaving locals to fend for themselves for after-work entertainment.

Nona Green enjoys watching ‘‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” but she said she has been disappointed with recent episodes. Leno, like O’Brien and David Letterman, is still putting out new episodes. But they are without the support of his usual team of writers.

‘‘The humor that used to be there is missing,” said Green, a social worker who lives in Upper Marlboro.

Green said because she does most of her television watching at night when she is at work, she is unlikely to let the strike change her viewing habits.

But some people are nearing the end of their ropes.

Amanda Howard of Accokeek said she recently rented the first three seasons of ‘‘Family Guy” and bought some of the ‘‘King of the Hill” seasons on DVD.

‘‘I’ve seen all the old ones,” a frustrated Howard said. ‘‘I want to see new ones.”

Three of Howard’s favorite shows, ‘‘Family Guy,” ‘‘King of the Hill” and ‘‘The Simpsons,” are among a few animated series affected by the strike, which began Nov. 5 and is centered around a dispute over Internet proceeds.

‘‘I think they [the writers] should be getting more money. They do a lot of the work,” Howard said.

Kathy Proctor of Upper Marlboro said the strike has not bothered her because she enjoys watching reality shows, which continue to air new episodes because they are largely unscripted.

It also helps to be flexible, Proctor said.

‘‘I don’t watch any particular show all the time,” she said.

Jay Beck said he has not noticed an increase in business at Clinton Video, a store his father owns on Old Branch Avenue.

‘‘There’s been no change,” he said.

But Beck said, personally, he misses the show ‘‘24.”

‘‘It’s a shame that show’s not on,” he said.

Sellers declined to comment on business at the Blockbuster where he works because he is not a manager. A corporate spokeswoman also declined to say whether the strike was affecting sales.

People do not seem to be substituting TV with reading in south county. The public library in Clinton has not seen an unusual surge in demand for its books or free DVD and video rentals, librarian Becky Minetto said.

Sellers, who shaved his solidarity beard after a few weeks ‘‘because it got annoying,” said he hopes the strike is resolved soon. One of his favorite shows, ‘‘Lost,” will begin airing original episodes Jan. 31, but the story will abruptly end in the middle of the season because ABC managed to make only eight episodes before the strike began.

‘‘They have nine weeks to settle it,” Sellers said.

E-mail Andy Zieminski at