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Ken Howard's Ankle: A Special Report

0929 ken howard
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists began their much ballyhooed joint TV-theatrical negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Monday. So what’s the biggest story to emerge thus far from the Sherman Oaks, Calif., meeting room?

Ken Howard has hurt his ankle.

Last week, the unions and the AMPTP announced that they were imposing a “media blackout” on negotiations. On Monday, Howard, SAG’s president, emerged from the Cone of Silence long enough to tell Variety, “I’ve been practicing my ‘No comment,’ ” and confirm that his limp was due to an ankle injury. That news immediately divided Howard’s constituency into two camps, with one faction labeling the injured ankle a “scumbag ankle” and the other faction proposing the creation of “one ankle for all legs.”

That’s how effective the media blackout has been. The only way to write about negotiations this week is to do what Variety did (quote a “no comment” and make a thing out of some actor’s joint pain) or what we’re doing (make up fictional news about said joint pain).

In reality, there is nothing to report at the moment, save that negotiations have indeed begun. Most observers agree that the unions are likely to push hard for more help for their ailing pension and health plans, but of course no one at either organization will cop to that. And anyone who’s been paying attention knows that new AMPTP president Carol Lombardini was recently successful in getting Teamsters union Local 399 to back down from strike threats and accept a package of 2 percent annual raises, setting a frugal standard going into talks with not just the actors’ unions but also the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. (If you didn’t know that, then you haven’t been paying attention. That means that you have a life, which is nice for you.)

This round of negotiations is scheduled to last until Nov. 7, after which SAG moves on to talks on a basic-cable agreement. As Jonathan Handel wrote at his blog Digital Media Law last week, “The Nov. 7 date seems to assume that SAG, AFTRA, and the AMPTP will reach agreement prior to then. This is expected, but is not a given.” Handel adds that SAG and AFTRA are ready to turn their attention to another shot at merger—a shot that looks more promising in the wake of last weekend’s SAG election results. And regardless of whether talks grow tough over particular issues, neither side is expected to propose broad changes to the fundamental structure of the TV-theatrical deals. So don’t be shocked if that media blackout is short-lived.

Pictured: Ken Howard (Photo: Getty Images)

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This made me laugh. Thanks for the levity. Love the headline.

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