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Industry Plans for Long-Lasting Strike

The first week of the Writers Guild of America strike brought some dramatic series shutdowns as networks and studios scrambled to prepare for what is now expected to be a lengthy work stoppage

With no contract talks planned, late-night talk shows went into repeats, most multi-camera sitcoms stopped production and a few dramas revealed a lack of stockpiled scripts

Fox announced it was completely revising its 2008 schedule in light of the strike, including postponing the premiere of “24” indefinitely so the series could run uninterrupted; only eight episodes have been completed.

The network slotted repeats and unscripted shows—such as its new lie-detector game show “Moment of Truth” and reality project “When Women Rule the World”—to replace scripted programs as they run out of fresh episodes.

Fox also notably dumped several freshman scripted projects onto airless Friday nights, with Parker Posey comedy “The Return of Jezebel James,” immortal-detective drama “New Amsterdam” and courtroom drama “Canterbury’s Law” facing the prospect of a spring burnoff.

Fox’s plan is contingent on the strike continuing, which looks likely following the 11th-hour negotiations meltdown Nov. 4 that left both sides telling the media they felt blindsided.

“At some point we’ll be back at the negotiating table, but it won’t be for quite a while,” Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers chief negotiator Nick Counter said.

The AMPTP ran newspaper ads last week about the WGA’s strike rules regarding animation, and today the Alliance is running ads that combat guild claims about digital downloads.

But most media coverage the first week fixated on WGA protests, including a showrunner rally at Disney Studios on Wednesday and a rally of thousands Friday morning at Fox.

Despite studio pressure to return to work to fulfill the production part of their duties, a few top showrunners such as “Desperate Housewives’” Marc Cherry and “The Office’s” Greg Daniels accelerated the shutdown of their own shows.

“We have non-writing producers on the show who are perfectly capable of doing any non-writing producing duties,” explained Mr. Daniels. “They want me to do writing-producing and just pretend it’s producing. Every decision you make has a writing aspect to it. If they really just thought it was producing, they could just as easily get somebody else to do these tasks.”

Although striking showrunners received the bulk of media attention, most dramas remained in production, along with some single-camera comedies such as CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” and ABC’s “Samantha Who?”

With scripted productions coming to a standstill, NBC, CBS and ABC are expected to join Fox in making some scheduling announcements of their own in the coming weeks.

Comments (2)

B:

I'm confused about what this means for the future of existing shows that are going on hiatus. Heroes for instance, they were contracted for 24 episodes this season, and from what I saw on television, it says its up to its last 3 episodes when in fact that would only add up to 11 episodes this season. Will the show be cancelled after these so-called last 3 episodes, or will it be picked back up once the strike is over? I understand why this strike is going on and I support the writers guild in why they are striking, but it would be comforting to know what the future holds for one of my favorite shows.

B:

I'm confused about what this means for the future of existing shows that are going on hiatus. Heroes for instance, they were contracted for 24 episodes this season, and from what I saw on television, it says its up to its last 3 episodes when in fact that would only add up to 11 episodes this season. Will the show be cancelled after these so-called last 3 episodes, or will it be picked back up once the strike is over? I understand why this strike is going on and I support the writers guild in why they are striking, but it would be comforting to know what the future holds for one of my favorite shows.

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