Strike Source: The Shows Must Go On!

By Tim Surette

Dec 07, 2007

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Unless you've been living under a rock or simply prefer curling up to a book to following the unfolding events of the Dharma Initiative, the romances at Seattle Grace Hospital, or the news from Jon Stewart, you are aware of the current writers strike that has put a halt to the television industry.

This TV.com feature will include information for understanding the strike, a list of how shows have been affected and how many episodes they have left, strike-related news stories, and exclusive quotes from actors and writers (click on the appropriate tab above to navigate).

We'll start off with the basics: What is the strike, and why is it happening?

Introduction

The entertainment industry is coping with evolving technology, and for those who have been involved with the business for a long time, the game is changing in a major way. The music, film, television, and games industries are seeing both positive and negative impacts from the digital age, and no one seems to be able to decide on a good way to sell goods that aren't physical products.

Corporations control the flow of money (yes--surprisingly, the entertainment industry is run by corporations), and now that the Internet is looking more and more like the way future generations will consume goods, things are getting a bit wacky.

Who is involved?

The Writers Guild of America (WGA)--The WGA is composed of two parts: The Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) and The Writers Guild of America, east (WGAe). The WGA represents film, television, and radio writers in the US. Most reality show writers are not considered to be part of the WGA, though it's a bit blurry.

The Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)--An organization founded in 1982 representing more than 350 movie and television production companies and studios in negotiations with entertainment industry unions such as the WGA, the Directors Guild of America, and Screen Actors Guild.

Why are the writers striking?

As pretty much with any strike, the main point of contention is the almighty dollar. The writers want more compensation on DVD sales and any compensation for profits made off of new media. Currently, writers don't see any financial compensation from shows purchased and downloaded onto iPods or any other handheld device, ad-supported episodes streamed online, or, except for a few rare cases, any unique "webisodes" made to promote a show.

Writers are asking for twice as much from DVD sales from their last contract; they want eight cents per DVD (note: per DVD, not dollar) as opposed to four cents. For digital sales, studios want to keep the same rate for residuals as DVD sales, even though digital sales require little to no production, shipping, and warehouse costs. Because new media has only really taken off in the last decade, the previous contract between the AMPTP and WGA didn't include it at all.

The AMPTP, on the other hand, says it is too early to establish a fair deal with regards to new media residuals. The group also says that streaming episodes are a form of promotion, and therefore writers aren't entitled to any profits from them. The WGA is quick to counter that idea by pointing out that ads are included in the stream, so that revenue must be made off them somehow.

Could it have been prevented?

The strike wasn't really a shock; the threat of a walkout had been looming for months before any scribe took to the picket lines. The two sides worked hard to avoid a strike, but in the end, neither could find any middle ground both could stand on.

When the contract between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expired on October 31, the two sides took a step back and television fans held their breath. The beginning of the following week, Monday, November 5, saw the strike official.

Has this happened before?

Yes, twice--and if history repeats itself, we're in for a long, dry winter. In 1960, writers walked the picket lines to establish residual payments, a practice that wasn't previously established. That is why studios do not have to pay writers on reruns of 1950s shows such as The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy.

In 1988, writers went on strike over residuals again, this time for shows being broadcast in foreign countries and reduced residuals for some hour-long programs. That strike helped launch reality television and saw the demise of some of television's then-most popular shows, including Moonlighting, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Both strikes lasted 22 weeks, with the 1988 strike outdoing the 1960 walkout by one day. If the current strike follows suit, television will be writer-free until the beginning of April 2008.

What's next?

Both sides have openly said they are ready for a long fight, and no one seems to have any real idea when a resolution may come. The Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild may find themselves in a similar situation soon, as both organizations' contracts with the AMPTP are set to expire next year. The relationships between the DGA, SAG, and WGA are extremely tight-knit, and should all be unable to reach an agreement with the AMPTP, Hollywood could be shut down almost completely.

The strike is affecting each show differently. Late-night talk shows immediately went dark when the strike hit, reality shows continue on, and prime-time scripted programs are all over the map, with the majority losing about half of a season.

Most shows went as far as they could with the number of scripts they had written, some were cut short by actors who refused to cross the picket line (The Office, for example), and others were extremely efficient and almost got in a whole season of shows (Friday Night Lights, Men In Trees).

The following list of the status of prime-time scripted shows was compiled from various sources around the Internet and news outlets (with large portions from The Los Angeles Times and TVGuide.com), and should be taken as a guideline only. The actual status of each show is subject to change at any time.

ABC [UPDATED 2/20]

According to Jim--Currently airing
Big Shots--Looking like it's done for good
Boston Legal--Returning April 8 with six new episodes
Brothers & Sisters--creator Jon Robin Baitz left showrunner duties in January because of strike and differences in opinions with network, picked up for next season, returns April 20 for four more episodes
Cashmere Mafia--Currently airing
Cavemen--Still some episodes unaired, outlook for renewal is grim
Desperate Housewives--Comes back with first of five new episodes on April 13, finale will be two-hours
Dirty Sexy Money--Will return next fall
Eli Stone--Currently airing its run of 13 episodes
Grey's Anatomy--Returns with five new episodes starting April 24
Lost--Eight of 16 episodes completed, will try and get 13 done with other episodes going towards next season; moves to 10 p.m. on April 24
Men In Trees--19 of 22 episodes finished, first five were unaired from season one, still has unaired episodes for this season
Miss/Guided--Midseason launch, no date released yet
Notes from the Underbelly--Unknown
October Road--Unknown
Private Practice--Will be seen next fall
Pushing Daisies--Held until next fall for proper relaunch
Samantha Who?--Returning with six new episodes beginning April 7
Ugly Betty--Back on April 24 with first of five new episodes
Womens Murder Club--Producers recently let go, outlook not so good

CBS [UPDATED 2/13]
Big Bang Theory--Nine episodes expected beginning March 17
Cane--Currently on hold
CSI--Six new episodes coming April 3
CSI: Miami--Eight new episodes starting March 24
CSI: NY--Seven new episodes beginning April 2
Ghost Whisperer--Six new episodes starting April 4
How I Met Your Mother--Nine new episodes March 17
Jericho--Currently airing its second season
Moonlight--Picked up for four more episodes, beginning April 11, no word on a second season
NCIS--Seven new episodes starting April 8
Numb3rs--Half dozen new episodes coming April 4
Rules of Engagement--Six episodes coming April 14
Shark--Four new episodes ordered, air date not announced yet
Welcome to the Captain--Currently airing
The New Adventures of Old Christine--Currently airing
The Unit--Currently on hiatus
Two and a Half Men--Nine new episodes starting March 17
Without a Trace--Six new episodes starting April 3

CW [UPDATED 2/13]
Aliens In America--Several unaired episodes remain, no word on second season pickup (cross your fingers)
Everybody Hates Chris--All 22 episodes complete
The Game--As many as nine new episodes coming as soon as March
Girlfriends--Looking done for good
Gossip Girl--CW hoping for five or six new episodes to air in April
Life Is Wild--Looking wildly done
One Tree Hill--CW hoping for five or six new episodes to air in April
Reaper--CW hoping for five or six new episodes to air in April
Smallville--CW hoping for five or six new episodes to air in April
Supernatural--CW hoping for five or six new episodes to air in April

Fox [UPDATED 2/20]
24--Season seven delayed until 2009
American Dad--22 of 22 episodes complete
Back to You--Returns for special post-Idol showing February 25, 26; more new episodes coming starting April 6
Bones--Returns with new episodes April 14
Canterbury Law--Debuts March 10
Family Guy--Continuing with new episodes
House--Returns April 28 with new episodes
K-Ville--No word on full-season pickup, return
King of the Hill--Continuing with new episodes
New Amsterdam--Will debut March 10
Prison Break--Completed its season, no word on renewal
Return of Jezebel James--Debuts March 14
Unhitched (previously Rules of Starting Over)--Debuts March 2
The Simpsons--Back in "production on future episodes"
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles--Currently airing as planned
Til Death--One new episode March 25, followed by more beginning April 16

NBC [UPDATED 2/13]
30 Rock--Returning with new episodes April 10
Bionic Woman--Looking not so bionic, may be done
Chuck--Will return for second season, relaunch in fall
ER--Returning April 10 with new hospital adventures
Friday Night Lights--Finished 15-episode run, outlook is looking not so good...on NBC anyway
Heroes--Held back until next fall
Journeyman--Looking almost certainly done
Las Vegas--Unknown
Law & Order--Returning April 23 with new laws, and new order
Law & Order: SVU--Coming back April 15 with extra-special victims
Law & Order: Criminal Intent--moved to NBC from USA Network, begins Jan 9
Life--Held until next fall
Lipstick Jungle--Debuted February 7, currently airing
Medium--Currently airing
My Name Is Earl--Back with one-hour episode April 3
The Office--Returns to work immediately, airing April 10
Scrubs--Checks in April 10 with new episodes

The strike has obviously affected much of the industry, and the fallout has been the main topic of conversation among those involved in television since the strike began. Promised shows have been stopped before they even began production, several production crews have been laid off, and execs have scurried around to get programming into their schedules.

The following is a list of strike-related news stories in reverse chronological order:

February 13, 2008
Office, Earl, L&O; coming back soon--Heroes, Chuck, Life return next fall; new eps of other shows begin April.

CBS asks for more CSI, others--Network unveils post-strike schedule with several new episodes; Moonlight picked up for four more episodes.

February 12, 2008
Hollywood writers vote to lift 14-week strike-- Film and television writers voted Tuesday night to lift their 100-day-old strike.

CW puts six back to work--Gossip Girl, Supernatural, Smallville, more will target mid-April return; Game, Wild likely done.

Lost won't stop at eight episodes--Producer Carlton Cuse will make "as many episodes as possible" of hit ABC show when they return to work.

Report: Daisies, Heroes done 'til fall--Bryan Fuller says his forensic fairy tale won't be back this season; Hayden says Heroes also on hiatus.

Post-strike show statuses unclear for most--Industry watchers predict bubble shows are gone, new shows will be held until fall, and vets will be back in April.

February 11, 2008
Lost, Daisies among early ABC pickups--Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives also among nine shows returning this fall.

WGA board approves deal, strike near end--Guild members to vote to approve deal between WGA board and studios and officially end strike as soon as Wednesday.

February 6, 2008
Strike almost over?--Report says a deal between WGA, AMPTP near done; WGA meeting scheduled for Saturday.

January 25, 2008
Lionsgate deal ends strike for two shows--Interim deal with WGA means Weeds can grow, Mad Men can continue to go mad.

ABC cuts scripts, NBC isn't--Alphabet network follows CBS, Fox, CW; Peacock won't cut script orders, despite saying it will trim pilots drastically.

January 23, 2008
Writers make concessions in talks--WGA will not picket Grammys, pull reality and animation proposals off the table.

Networks tighten wallets, make more cuts--NBC dropping "most pilots," CW, Fox, CBS cut scripts currently in development; one estimate puts strike cost at $1.5 billion.

January 22, 2008
Oscars will happen after all, noms announced--Officials for gala say "red carpet is going to be rolled out"; No Country, Blood lead noms.

Strike negotiations are back on--Feuding WGA, AMPTP reportedly agree to resume "informal" strike talks as early as middle of this week.

January 18, 2008
Grammys could be next strike target--WGA is reportedly asking artists affiliated with the Screen Actors Guild, including Timberlake, 50 Cent, and Beyoncé, to skip Feb. 10 ceremony.

January 15, 2008
Studios kill writers' contracts--Money-saving move indicates studios think strike will not end soon; pilot season inches closer to oblivion.

January 9, 2008
Dexter bleeds onto CBS--Serial-killer drama from Showtime confirmed for broadcast on strike-ridden network; show will be edited, but mostly for language, says cable channel.

January 8, 2008
Stewart, Colbert return to late night--Hosts poke fun at writers, actors, and studios alike..

January 7, 2008
Golden Globes downsized--Major awards gala falls in the face of writers' strike..

January 4, 2008
WGA wags finger at Leno--"Tsk, tsk," says guild, after Leno delivers pre-written monologue in both shows since return; NBC claims Leno got permission from guild.

January 2, 2008
Late-night shows return tonight--Letterman, Ferguson will have writers thanks to unique deal with WGA; Leno, O'Brien, Kimmel will have to improvise.

December 19, 2007
Globes, Oscars stricken--Writers guild says awards shows won't get their support or permission to use old clips; stars ponder attending.

December 18, 2007
Monk, Psych see way onto NBC's schedule--Pair of comedies from NBC-owned USA Network to be repurposed for network's primetime.

December 17, 2007
Conan, Leno going back to work--NBC's late-night talk-show hosts will return to their shows; both say keeping their staff employed was most important.

December 14, 2007
ABC's midseason schedule moves Lost--Jack, Sawyer, Kate will change nights, times; Mondays are Dance-fueled; Cashmere premieres January 3.

Striking writers mess with Carson--WGA members plant themselves in audience, heckle picket-line-crosser Carson Daly during talk-show taping.

December 11, 2007
TCA tour officially axed--Television Critics Association winter press tour cancelled due to strike; "We just ran out of time," said rep.

December 10, 2007
Strike negotiations crumble--Talks between WGA and AMPTP collapse in a bitter heap; studios get nasty, call WGA proposal "completely unacceptable."

December 5, 2007
Kimmel was paying staff incognito--Report says that Jimmy Kimmel has paid his Live staff since strike began; paper estimates Leno, Letterman paying $200k/week.

December 4, 2007
Dexter may cut up CBS--CBS announces intentions to repurpose Showtime hits for prime-time programming...with edits, of course.

Pair of Laws ordered back to NBC--Law & Order and Criminal Intent spin-off return January; both airing back-to-back, taking over "Bionic Wednesdays."

December 3, 2007
CBS details new schedule, Jericho return--Cult show returns to The Eye on February 12; net touts game shows, reality programs, confirms reruns.

Leno joins ranks of salary-paying hosts--Tonight Show host Jay Leno will pay the salaries of his fired staffers for at least one week.

Next strike victim: TCA press tour?--The alcohol-soaked press party that is the Television Critics Association press tour could be canceled due to strike.

November 30, 2007
Conan paying staff out of pocket--Late-night talk-show host Conan O'Brien compensating production staff during strike-induced production halt.

WGA calls AMPTP proposal a "bad deal"--Deal offered by AMPTP called "a massive rollback" by WGA; sides to break from talks until Tuesday to let WGA mull over proposal.

November 27, 2007
Carson Daly crossing picket line--Last Call with Carson Daly will resume production this week; Daly not a member of WGA.

November 19, 2007
Writers, producers will talk again--Negotiations between feuding parties to resume again after Thanksgiving; is end of strike near?

November 16, 2007
SNL, 30 Rock hitting stage--One-off theater performances of NBC comedies being held in New York City this weekend; Michael Cera hosting SNL.

Bye-bye Bionic, Battlestar--Canadian television productions, including Bionic Woman and Battlestar Galactica, shut down as strike hits Canada.

November 15, 2007
Dave paying employees during strike--Letterman's Worldwide Pants paying idle crews of Late Night, Late Late Show during strike.

November 14, 2007
Poll: 63 percent support writers in strike--Almost two out of three surveyed say striking writers aren't in the wrong; only a few support studios.

Family Guy moving forward without creator--Fox will continue to produce hit animated comedy without striking Seth MacFarlane; showrunner calls it "a colossal dick move."

November 13, 2007
Daisies, Trees pruning seasons--Men In Trees, Pushing Daisies prepare strike-shortened season finales...just in case.

Soap writers turn scabs--Handful of soap opera writers cross picket lines to save jobs; sources say more are working "in the shadows."

November 12, 2007
Scrubs series finale striking out?--Series creator declines request to write alternate ending to serve as strike-shortened series finale, says he will battle ABC to have show end as he intended.

November 9, 2007
Studios begin legal action against strikers--Show runners walking the lines are reportedly sent breach-of-contract notices by execs; layoffs begin.

November 8, 2007
Office writers, others explain their side on YouTube--Writer-producers B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein use strike's main point against producers; Grey's stars also protest.

November 7, 2007
Fox adjusts fall schedule; 24 delayed--Prison Break won't break for long; Amsterdam will air; House fills holes.

Family Guy not so strike-proof--Striking Seth MacFarlane says there is only one fully finished new episode in the can; Fox hopes he finishes "non-writing obligations."

Office among shows halted by strike--Big Bang, Christine, more shutter production while writers walk; Longoria flamed for working on-set.

November 6, 2007
Lost may lose half-season--Picketing showrunner says ABC hit may only get through eight episodes if strike is prolonged; 24 also in jeopardy.

November 5, 2007

Writers Guild of America strike officially begins

Strike already taking toll on shows--Late-night talkies going to repeats, Heroes prepping shortened-season finale, Cashmere Mafia delayed.

Stars show support for writers--Some big names weigh in on Hollywood's civil war; Daily Show's Stewart rumored to be paying staff out of pocket.

November 2, 2007
Writers' strike reality is viewers' loss--Backlash of writers' strike means television season will change--more reality TV! How will your favorite show be affected?

WGA: We're striking--AMPTP, WGA fail to reach agreement; strike confirmed, beginning of next work week will be start date for work stoppage.

November 1, 2007
Strike talk downs Heroes: Origins--Potential writers' walkout forces NBC to indefinitely postpone anticipated Heroes spin-off.

People have different opinions on the strike, but the public seems to be largely in favor of the writers. While the studios haven't been too vocal on the issue, actors, writers, and producers have been exactly the opposite, opting to make as much noise as possible rather than stay quiet. TV.com asked some actors and writers about their thoughts on the strike, and this is what they had to say.

Quotes

Kevin McKidd, star of NBC's Journeyman

"It's affected everything, because we can't have a writer on set to complain about lines [laughs]. But it hasn't really affected production so far, we're still filming, we're one of the only shows still to be filming. We're really thankful for our writing staff who were so efficient and so talented, they mange to get these scripts out in time for us to shoot them and basically we're just looking forward to when the thing gets resolved and we're back to finishing the rest of the season, you know, to complete the first season. Because by the end of the first season you get to find out why all these stories, why all these people in the first episodes that Dan saves, it wasn't just a random act."
November 10, 2007--Satellite interview with TV.com

Milo Ventimiglia, star of NBC's Heroes and former star of Gilmore Girls

"I really hope the writers get what they want and they're deserving of it. But I really have a hard time when my crew is not working. I'm not in favor of strikes, but I do understand them. It's an upsetting thing when there are lot of people who are out of work who don't make the kind of money that big names do. I hope it gets resolves quickly. I really think [the strike] could have been avoided."
December 7, 2007--Phone interview with TV.com

Eric Kripke, writer and creator of The CW's Supernatural

"It sucks, man. It sucks out loud. We want to go back to work. We have written 12 episodes, we have now shot all 12, that's 12 total for season three. [Our production up in] Vancouver had to shut down last Wednesday, and things are very quiet here at Supernatural. It's a terrible, awful thing, I have to say that my reason I find it so awful and tragic and depressing has nothing to do with telling the story of the show. Last week about 250 crew members who work on Supernatural went out of work...pretty much everyone in the Canadian production offices. These are brilliantly talented people who bust their ass on the show and have sacrificed so much working day in and day out on Supernatural, and [executive producer] Bob [Singer] and I had to put them all out of work. It bad, it's bad for everybody, it's painful. I happen to agree with the reasons why we're striking, but that doesn't make it any less painful. I just hope that the powers that be on both sides can settle as quickly as possible so we can get back to work. Yes, part of it is because I want to continue telling the story and I want to keep on telling the stories of Sam and Dean, and I want to create more product for the fans, but the driving impulse is I just want my crew to work. I hate that they're out of work going into the holiday season."
December 10, 2007--Phone interview with TV.com

Strike-related links around the Web

Writers Guild of America West Official Web Site

Writers Guild of America East Official Web Site

Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers Official Web Site

Deadline Hollywood blog--Nikki Finke's is a well-known Hollywood insider and writer for the LA Weekly.

United Hollywood--a pro-WGA blog featuring videos, pictures, and information.

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  • outoffog Mar 24, 2008

    I looked at some of the recent "post-strike" episodes of "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE", and I thought to myself during his comedy segments, "For THIS he needed his writing staff?". Whatever talents they demonstrated before the strike aren't being used to best advantage now...

  • ncisgafan1981 Mar 06, 2008

    so just out of curiosity when is new episodes of ncis supposed to start back, my tuesday nights has been lost with out that show, lol let me know if anyone knows

  • JayJay81 Feb 22, 2008

    You forgot CBS's Criminal Minds in that list.

    It returns April 3rd, but I don't know for how many episodes.

  • starfire2_2 Feb 21, 2008

    I just want House back

  • _malena_ Feb 21, 2008

    belleblood cold case has been renewed for another season and it is currently showing new episodes..one new episode aired over this past weekend (feb 17) and the next new scheduled episode to be aired is march 30

    http://www.tv.com/cold-case/show/16989/story/10861.html?om_act=convert&om;_clk=headlinessh&tag;=headlines;title;0om_act=convert&om;_clk=headlinessh

    http://www.tv.com/cold-case/show/16989/episode_guide.html?season=5&tag;=season_dropdown;dropdown;4

  • lae10 Feb 19, 2008

    This is just getting ridiculous. I just want my tv shows back!

  • belleblood Feb 15, 2008

    what about Cold Case on CBS? another news article here mentioned it's been picked up for next season.

  • marliax Feb 14, 2008

    They might be getting some of their demands but every time they go on strike the reality tv market gets stronger and they might get hurt in the long run.I am very glad that the strike is over...though

  • virgovic08 Feb 12, 2008

    Hey to all, I actually do sympathise with the writers and don't think it's huge increase to ask that the double their pay on DVD's to 8 cents, surely they deserve more than this! As for the 'suffering' of the viewers, well I'm sure we'll survive, and rekindle an aquaintance with the written word perhaps? At the end of the day, strikes are a necessary part of the modern post industrial society to ensure we're paid fairly for what we produce, whether though hand's on work or imaginative craft, too many fat cats get too much of the profits whilst those that put the hours in trail behind in terms of pay. Yes it may be a drag waiting as a viewer, but at least feel proud for attempting to achieve equality of wage for all sectors!

  • Dirk13 Feb 10, 2008

    well according to Eisner, the strike is apparently now over and the deal was official shook on Saturday, lets hope it's not too late to renew Reaper and bring the 4400 back to life....

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