The premise of the show was simple. It needed nothing in the way of technology, expertise or budget, yet the results would revolutionise television and create a brand new genre of programming. Had it not been for the Writers’ Guild Strike of 1988 though – and the dogged persistence of one man – the show that sparked that revolution might never have made it to air.
When things are running smoothly you may not feel that Hollywood has much of an effect on your life. But when it’s put on hold, terrible things can happen. Thirty years after the 1988 writers’ strike began – and ten years after the 2007 one ended – we unpick the peculiar and profound effect that the Writers Guild of America has inadvertently had on media, pop culture and international politics.
Our lawyer suggested that we provide some editorial context here to make it clear that this is “the unauthorised rushes of a dead criminal”.
So there you go…
Stormy Daniels appeared on Jimmy Kimmel this week, shortly after President Trump’s State Of The Union address, to field questions about whether or not she shagged him during Shark Week. You’d have thought that the $130,000 non-disclosure agreement she supposedly signed would have made an interview like that a little tricky – but apparently not. How is she doing it? We have some theories.
What is the extent of Parliament’s pornography problem? How regularly are our MPs trying to view this sort of stuff? And, most importantly, what kind of thing are they into? As the government is being so slow to release its report, we’ve taken matters into our own hands. Cross-referencing PornHub’s data with Parliament’s – we’ve come to some strange conclusions…
Russian interference. Piss-tape kompromat. Montenegrin fake news factories. Shadowy billionaires on both sides of the political divide trying to ignite a culture war. There’s been one hell of an elaborate backstory contrived to explain the shock result of the 2016 US election, but a look through the lens of the National Enquirer suggests that some of it may have been a little more straightforward.
The criminal underworld of New York, the closed corridors of Washington, the magazine industry of Florida. They’re all very interesting – no question about that – but these aren’t regular people we’ve been talking about here. For the National Enquirer to cut any sway with millions of average American Joes, things would have to change. They’d have to go corporate. Which is where American Media, Inc. comes into play.
While mob boss Frank Costello gave the National Enquirer a connection to the less-reputable elements of society, in order to become a truly powerful publication it would need someone to introduce the Enquirer to the established corridors of power. Someone with the ear of a senator, an attorney general, a president. Which is exactly what it had in the rather lumpy shape of Roy Cohn.
Our story starts with American Media Inc’s oldest and most notorious title: the National Enquirer. As the industry’s most sensational scandal rag, the Enquirer is often blamed for setting the grim tone of modern celebrity reporting – but how did it become so influential? And, more importantly, how did the Enquirer’s ties to a botched Mafia hit-job in 1950s New York end up causing a tabloid boom in 1970s small-town Florida?
In the year since he was elected president, Donald Trump has suffered an absolutely astonishing amount of setbacks and scandals, yet nothing seems to have landed a critical blow. But there is one incident that might still cause the whole thing to collapse. It was barely perceptible at the time, but as soon as you start tugging at the thread, a huge story starts to unravel. One that’s been sixty years in the making and deals with one of the strangest forces in US politics today: the story of American Media, Inc.