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 V.17 No.8 | February 21 - 27, 2008 

Idiot Box

We’re Baaaack

WGA strike is history

Our long, national, TV-watching nightmare is finally over! The Writers Guild strike is at an end. Last Tuesday night, WGA members agreed to a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Writers were back on the job first thing Wednesday morning. So what does that mean for our favorite shows?

The most immediate effect, of course, is that late-night talk shows got their writing staffs back. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and others--all forced to write their own stuff and ad lib like mad for the last 100 days--can now luxuriate in the comfort of teleprompters full of jokes and a lineup of eager A-list guests no longer kept at bay by union picket lines. (David Letterman already signed an independent agreement with the WGA and has been using his writers for more than a month.) The late-night airwaves seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief last Wednesday night. Conan got to bring his opening monologue back, and Leno got to say goodbye to an endless stream of animal handlers.

Back on course is the 80th Annual Academy Awards. With barely a week’s prep, producers rushed ahead with their “Plan A”--a full-fledged scripted show with Jon Stewart as host. After only three days back on the set of “The Daily Show” (redubbed “A Daily Show” during the strike), Stewart jetted out to L.A. to prep for the big Oscar telecast. Here’s hoping they can pull it off.

So what about regular weekly television shows? Most all of them had already signed off, with “strike motivated” finales capping off truncated seasons. With the end of the strike, writers were hustled back to their laptops and told to get cranking. As it stands, most network hour-long dramas will be able to produce another 4-5 episodes before June. Sitcoms, requiring a bit less filming time, might manage to squeeze out 6-8 episodes.

So far, networks have announced late-March/early-April relaunch dates for most series. NBC, for example, has announced its entire Thursday night lineup (including “The Office,” “Scrubs,” “My Name is Earl,” “30 Rock” and “ER”) will be back on April 3 (for a special one-hour “Earl”) and April 10 (for the rest).

NBC’s “Heroes” and “Chuck,” ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Private Practice,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Life,” as well as FOX’s “Prison Break,” won’t make it back until fall 2008. On-the-bubble shows like NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” “Las Vegas,” “Lipstick Jungle,” ABC’s “Big Shots,” “Boston Legal,” “Notes from the Underbelly,” “Women’s Murder Club,” CBS’ “Moonlight,” “The Unit” and “Welcome to the Captain” are not looking promising for any return to the airwaves. “Girlfriends,” “K-Ville,” “Cane,” “Carpoolers,” “Cavemen,” “Journeyman” and “Bionic Woman” are all officially strike casualties.

Lovers of serialized drama will be happy to note ABC’s promise to continue airing the eight episodes it has already shot of “Lost.” After that, there will be a four-week hiatus. Tough that out and you’ll get five more new episodes. ABC swears anything cut from this season’s run will be added to the 2009 season. FOX, on the other hand, says “24” will be pushed all the way back to 2009 so that the show’s timeclock may run uninterrupted.

 
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