For the last three months, the lingering question on Hollywood's mind has been "When will the writers' strike be over?" With the answer almost certainly tomorrow--Writers Guild members are expected to vote to lift the strike today--the new question becomes, "When can we get back to work?"
The answer, it seems, varies from program to program. Studios have not yet announced solid plans for shows, but the general consensus is that veteran heavyweight dramas with well-oiled production cycles, such as Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and House, and established half-hour sitcoms, such as The Office, 30 Rock, and Two and a Half Men, will all speed back to production in hopes of hitting the air with new episodes around April (new comedies may appear as soon as late March as their production cycles are shorter).
The studios expect that the dedicated viewers of these hit shows will have no problem getting back into the swing of things, and stand to lose nothing by tacking on an extra five or six episodes. However, as most only had about a dozen shows completed before the strike, none are expected to get their full 20-plus episode order filled.
On the other side of things, new shows that were just getting traction when the strike hit, such as Dirty Sexy Money, Chuck, and Reaper, will likely hold off on new episodes until next fall. The reason for holding is simple: The networks don't want to confuse viewers (and I guess that shows what they think of our intelligence) with partial seasons of shows that haven't exactly dug themselves in, and would rather give their newcomers a proper relaunch in the fall.
As for those handful of shows that everyone thought were going to be axed but weren't, such as K-Ville, Bionic Woman, Cane, Carpoolers, and TV.com favorite Cavemen, they'd better start saying their fond farewells. It's also unclear whether we'll ever see the unaired episodes of these programs.
Of course, these are all best guesses on the part of industry watchers, and could all change soon. We'll know more as the dust settles over the next few days.
For more on the writers' strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.