Writers' Strike Would Cause Major TV Programming Changes

Posted on October 24, 2007

With the Writers Guild poised to go on strike on November 1st if they don't reach a deal with the producers, things are looking a bit grim for television viewers. If the writers go on strike, there won't be anyone to work on new episodes of The Bionic Woman, My Name is Earl or any comedy, thriller or drama. That means lots of reality TV and news programs in our future. But it also may mean some Sci Fi channel favorites like Battlestar Galactica will air from the beginning >on NBC.

[I]t's a different world in television than it was in 1988 when writers struck for 22 weeks, causing many shows to bring down their tents midway through the season. Even "Star Trek: The Next Generation" tried to get around it all by digging up old scripts from "Star Trek: Phase II," but most shows don't have those kinds of luxuries.

Today, however, many networks own multiple cable channels, and nearly all of those have some kind of original programming or another. So don't be surprised if "Heroes" gets replaced by NBCU's SciFi Channel programming like "Battlestar Galactica," or even a watered down "Nip/Tuck" joining reality programming on Fox.

NBC Universal probably has the biggest library of cable programming to pull from thanks to owning both SciFi Channel and USA Network where they could easily start adding previously aired shows like "Psych," "Monk" and "The 4400" to the main network schedule. TNT isn't owned by a company that also owns a major network, but Time Warner officials reportedly are offering "The Closer" to networks ... for a price, of course.

"Battlestar Galactica" could be the biggest beneficiary. Although it's clear that a strike would delay production on the show's final season (and likely ensuring that the last 10 episodes will air in 2009), NBC could opt to start the entire show from the beginning or even start picking and choosing episodes it feels will draw viewers when they run out of existing scripted programs. "The 4400" -- which is possibly facing cancellation after a not-so-stellar fourth season -- may get new life with a run on NBC as well.

A writers' strike will be a disaster for everyone, including the writers who mostly live from paycheck to paycheck. Everyone's rushing to get scripts locked down for upcoming features films, as well. But if the writers do strike, look for the worst film year ever in 2008.

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