DAVID BIANCULLI

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TV Writers Vote Tomorrow, And May Be Back to Work Wednesday
February 11, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
The end of the Writers Guild of America strike, if it plays out this week as expected, will arrive just in time, and conclude the only way it should: With the membership voting to accept terms, rather than accept the decision of the WGA equivalent of super-delegates.

If all goes well - and it ought to, since the alternative would cripple so many aspects of TV that it might never fully recover - Tuesday's vote will mean certain parts of Hollywood can work on getting back up to speed as quickly as possible.

Other parts, though, may never be the same.

A resolution this week, and a resumption of production, means several good things. The Oscar telecast, a mere 13 days from now, will proceed unpicketed, and fully attended. The networks, if they so choose, can stage a smaller version of pilot season, present upfronts to potential advertisers, and mount a May sweeps populated by fresh episodes of most prime-time series.

But that's only if they so choose. Even if both sides of this dispute shake hands and resolve to work together, there's a real possibility the status quo, having been disrupted by this strike, provides the excuse for rewriting the play book.

Fewer scripts may be ordered for pilots, and fewer pilots made, not just this spring, but from now on. Just because new episodes of shows can be produced in time to appear before the season ends, that doesn't mean they'll be shown then. Network programmers may decide it's better to stockpile shows until fall, or, in the case of borderline successes, simply stop making them. Even the concept of the fall season might be up for grabs.

The so-called "bubble shows" most vulnerable to cancellation right now include series that deserve patience and support as much as they need them. ABC has Pushing Daisies, the season's best new show. NBC has Chuck, and CBS has Big Bang Theory. That's just for starters, but you get the idea. If NBC contends itself with cheaper, flashier crap like American Gladiators, struggling but worthy shows like Chuck could be - dead meat.

One part of the TV landscape is returning more reliably. If the WGA membership votes yes on Tuesday, then Wednesday night will bring the first staff-written installments of 2008 for shows featuring Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And circle this date on your calendar: Saturday, February 23, is the likely return date for the first fresh Saturday Night Live since November 3.

amy-winehouse-grammys.jpg

Meanwhile, last night CBS presented the 50th annual Grammy Awards. There were, as usual, some great moments - Beyoncé and Tina Turner, the Beatles tribute, Rhapsody in Blue, even the exiled-in-London mini-concert from loose-cannon Amy Winehouse, among others.

But this high-profile CBS special was tarnished a bit by the network's promo ads for what's coming next, courtesy of the strike. A spring edition of Big Brother?

That's not a promo. That's a threat.

The truth is, the networks need good, fresh, scripted programming - and fast.

1 Comment

 

Marlark said:

Hallelujah and glory be!
Picking through the minefield of strike-riddled television has not been easy for the faint of heart.

I mean just the other night I talked to my wife for, like, an HOUR.

Vote YES. And the writers should, because after that bit of human interaction, I went online to watch two episodes of "Terminator: The Sara Connor Chronicles." Knowing that the writers will be compensated for it made my cursor blink with delight.

Comment posted on February 11, 2008 2:15 PM

 
 
 
 
 
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