On the Air or Up in the Air: The Post-Strike Landscape

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

With all but the most congenitally gloomy people expecting Hollywood writers to call off their strike tomorrow, execs at all the broadcast nets huddled yesterday to figure out which scripted series could produce more new episodes in what's left of this TV season, which shows should produce new episodes, which shows still have unaired original episodes, which shows to scrap, and which shows it makes the most sense to concede the season and relaunch in the fall.

ABC wasted no time announcing it had picked up nearly nine hours of scripted series programming for the 2008-09 TV season. As of late yesterday, the other networks had not yet weighed in.

You're in luck if you're a fan of these ABC shows, in alphabetical order:

"Brothers & Sisters," "Desperate Housewives," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost," "Private Practice," "Pushing Daisies," "Samantha Who?" and "Ugly Betty."

That's nearly nine hours of programming -- out of the approximately 14 hours of prime time ABC typically fills with scripted series these days. It schedules the other eight hours of prime time with "20/20," reality franchises ("Dancing With the Stars," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," etc.), football, NASCAR and "Rerun Theatre."

Some of these chosen ABC series -- particularly freshman shows such as "Pushing Daisies," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Private Practice" -- won't be back with new episodes until fall, to give the network the opportunity to relaunch them.

"Any show that is a success, or semi-success is absolutely back," said one Hollywood agent, in re discussions among TV execs on the first day back at work since the Writers Guild big cheeses said it was time to end the strike (though they will not make it official until the whole membership gets to vote today).

"Successful shows are all going to jump back and figure out how many they can do -- at most they can do five or six and air them" this season, speculated the agent, who did not want to be identified because the discussions with the networks are ongoing.

That's not entirely true. Fox's serialized drama "24," for instance, will wait out this season and come back in January, because only eight of the 24 episodes had been shot and anyway, thanks to the strike, the network to paraphrase Jack Bauer, has "run out of time!" to air a season's worth of 24 episodes before the season wraps in May.

Meanwhile, shows that do go back into production may find their shooting schedules changed somewhat. Instead of stopping production in May, as usual, some series might shoot through June, banking a few episodes for next season.

"They want to amortize costs -- getting back up and running is expensive if you're doing just five episodes," the agent explained.

As of last night, here's how the rest of the season seems to be shaping up, though the situation is still kind of fluid.

And, don't forget: Some "yes" series have not been ordered back into production but still have unaired episodes that were produced before the strike hit. And many "no" series are not dead, just being held to relaunch in the fall.

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