Once upon a time, getting a job in a TV writers’ room was a brass ring of its own. Even the lowest rungs came with stupid-sounding money and a ready-made path to even more. Then, streaming. In 2023, as Michael Schulman makes clear in this well-reported overview, things done changed — and the just-begun WGA strike isn’t just understandable, but damn near unavoidable.

For people outside the industry, the woes of TV writers can elicit a boo-hoo response: it is, after all, a more lucrative form of writing than most, right? But the economics of streaming have chipped away at what was previously a route to a middle-class life, as the cost of living in Los Angeles has crept upward. “It feels like the studios have gone through our contracts and figured out how to Frankenstein every loophole into every deal, which means that, at the very best, you can keep your head above water,” Jacqmin said. “You can maybe maintain the amount of money you made the year before, but more than likely you will be asked to cut your quote. It just feels really grim.” She added, “I’m on Twitter every other day, and I’m seeing writers who are, like, ‘Please Venmo me some grocery money. I am desperate, and I have not worked in three months. Help!’ ”