If the looming writers strike extends into late February, would it affect the Academy Awards, set to air Feb. 24? “It would just be shorter show,” says the show’s producer, Gil Cates. Writers for the Oscars do fall under WGA jurisdiction, but Cates says he won’t begin seriously considering contingency plans until the new year. “Listen, I hope the writers and producers come to an agreement before then,” he says, “[but] the truth of the matter is that, at the end of the day, all you really have to say is ‘the nominees are,’ and ‘the award goes to.’ We like to have more stuff around that, but as I said, it could be a short show for a change.”
Cates is also the chairman of the negotiating committee for the Directors Guild of America, whose contract is set to expire June 30, so he declined to speculate as to how long the WGA strike may last. He did note that the 1988 Oscars went on as planned in the midst of the last writers strike. That strike had been in effect for just six weeks when the Oscars went to air, however, so a partial script was already written, and host Chevy Chase told reporters beforehand that the rest would be filled in with ad-libbing. During that ceremony, some viewers speculated that producers made up for the inflexible script by letting winners’ acceptance speeches run on as long as they wanted. The result: The show clocked in at a bit over 3-and-a-half hours.