Monday, November 05, 2007

It's A Strike, And They Are Out!

There's an ancient curse that says: "May you live in interesting times."

Unfortunately in Hollywood, things just became more interesting.

To the surprise of perhaps no one, the Writers Guild of America made good on its strike threat, hitting the picket lines this morning.

As a viewer, you should start seeing the effects almost immediately, as late-night talk shows such as "The Tonight Show" or "The Late Show With David Letterman" will be forced to switch into rerun mode. This will actually affect the studios in two ways: Not only will they have to air reruns of these shows, but they won't be able to use the shows to promote the various movies coming out this holiday season.

Almost as immediate will be daytime TV, with things like soap operas only having a week or two of new episodes, at the most.

As for prime-time TV, the effects are a little more hazy. Most of the network shows have enough episodes to make it through January. So, will networks try to stretch those episodes out by sprinkling in some reruns, or will they continue to burn them off, hoping for a quick resolution to the strike?

And what about shows on the ratings bubble, such as "Journeyman," (NBC, 10 p.m.) for example? The strike may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise for fans of ratings-challenged series, because NBC is more likely to burn off the remaining new episodes in the can than yank the show because of its poor ratings.

Several shows that were planned as midseason replacements already have several episodes in the can, so they can also be used to fill air time for a while, but some shows, like "24" or "Lost," that have complicated, season-long story arcs probably won't get launched in the winter as planned, because the networks won't want to start those seasons, then suddenly yank the show when the episodes run out.

Of the shows currently on the air, "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is among the most affected: Not only has NBC postponed plans for the "Heroes: Origins" spinoff (a series of six, one-shot episodes featuring a character unrelated to the show's main story arc, written and directed by some big-time Hollywood names like Kevin Smith), but the producers also announced that if the writers went on strike, the Dec. 5 episode would have an alternate ending that would wrap up the current storyline (if that means getting rid of the Wonder-less twins, then strike writers, strike!)

But what it will mean most of all is more reality-style TV. Not just shows like "Survivor" or "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.), but prime-time game shows, news programs, sports and music specials.

People hoping for a quick resolution to the strike are in for a disappointment. Both sides are sticking to their guns, not for greed, but for necessity. (Check out last week's blog for the issues they are striking over).

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Enjoy the fresh episodes while you can. "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.) leads things off, followed by "Heroes" and "Journeyman."

You may want to watch ABC to get a preview of life during a writers' strike. After an extended "Dancing With the Stars," "Samantha Who?" kicks off at 9:45 p.m., followed by "The Bachelor" at 10:15, so be aware those of you with VCRs and DVRs.

I'm hoping the strike will give struggling shows like "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.) a chance to catch on.

Sadly, it won't affect "Prison Break," (Fox, 8 p.m.), which airs a two-hour episode tonight. "PB" is scheduled to go off in January, to replaced by "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" on Mondays, then return in April. Yes, of all the dramas out there, "PB" is probably the most safe of any show during the strike. That's just wrong.

Finally, enjoy the lineup of CBS sitcoms, followed by "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.) Considering how often "CSI" reruns are shown anyway, will people notice if the network starts airing repeats regularly?


Jonathan said...

"Will anyone notice" is an interesting question, indeed, because your average television viewer is very casual, and doesn't understand the concept of when a season ends and begins anyways.

If I understood correctly what I've been reading about "Heroes," it was set-up to have two 11 episode story arcs that could be viewed almost as if it was two seasons, so I think having to end the show on Dec. 3rd with the alternate ending probably wouldn't throw too many people off in the future if it wraps up most of what has come before it. I think shows like "Journeyman" (assuming it was to last a full season) and soap oriented fare like "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" are going to be hit harder.

And of course the fact that "Lost" and "24" might have to hold off till later in the Spring or even next fall annoys me to no end.

NBC and CBS can just rerun the hell out of their procedural shows, like you stated, and be just fine. NBC could even show "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" in 2nd run form after it airs on USA. Even in reruns, "CSI" is still usually the number 1 show each week during the regular season, so I don't think it will be affected that much.

It will be interesting to see how the box office is affected without the actors being able to promote their films on the Talk Shows, but I've always been curious how much that has helped. I guess we'll find out pretty quickly.

zodin2008 said...

It's time for me to finally have an opportunity to catch up on all those movies that have been sitting for ages in my DVR. That's at least some good news.

Among my other personal changes in viewing habits (if this turns into a long protracted fight) will be an opportunity to see science fiction done RIGHT (I am looking at YOU, "Heroes") and re-watch my old "Buffy" and "Angel" DVD's that have been collecting dust.

Also, I haven't done it in past years, but I may just go ahead and order the NBA season pass and watch all the games of my favorite NBA team, the Spurs, with extra nights.

What I WON'T do? Is watch any Reality TV or Game shows.

Phillip Ramati said...

Heroes is filming two endings to that episode, based on the strike. The alternate one wrapping up the season will be shown if it doesn't end.

It's ironic that many viewers like Zod will be watching DVDs in the interim. It was the lack of money writers are getting from revenue sources like DVDs - a billion dollar industry - that is leading them to take such a hard stance on the new media platforms of today.