There is a strong possibility of a strike by the Writers Guild in the coming days. A strike of any reasonable length would have an impact on this fall’s TV season, as the networks would scramble to fill their hours with non-traditional material. It would be hard to do most existing series without guild writers. In past strikes, we’ve sometimes seen series remakes, actually building a new series of Mission: Impossible (to use one example) by basically reshooting scripts from the original series.
But with the current trends in TV, what this is really likely to mean is: more reality TV.
While reality TV shows do have conceptualizers who could be viewed as writers, these folks are not expected to be in the Guild (in fact, that’s part of the current negotiations, as the Guild thinks they should be.) So we’re bound to see that many more home makeover shows, more singing competitions, and more guys tricked into believing that the millionaire they married in Massachusettes is really a woman…. all at the expense of time for sitcoms and dramas.
Who else is likely winners? Well, I’m no expert, but it seems to me that Drew Carey could be the guy to really make out here. Currently, ABC plans to dump the remaining Drew Carey Show episodes two per week during the summer, but the thought of holding back and having the one continuing professional sitcom during the fall must be tempting. And while I expect that Whose Line Is It Anyway? actually used writers for Carey’s quips and perhaps for figuring out which games to play, it should be both effective and cheap to do it as an improv show. (And with Wayne Brady’s talk show cancelled, he should be available again for it.)
The longer lead time for animated shows means that new episodes of The Simpsons have already been written, as have episodes of the computer-animated Father of the Pride. They’ll get more attention, and presumably Fox won’t wait until after the baseball season is over to find someplace to air Simpsons (perhaps even running the Halloween special by Halloween this year, dare we hope?) But then Fox has been moving away from the fixed season calendar, which may help them as well. Basic cable series that could be run on network might gain a foot up, too — I’d look for another set of ABC reruns of Monk, and perhaps Touching Evil and a few other such series (although Nip/Tuck and The Shield may both be too intense for the networks.)
None of this bodes well for the sitcom in general, which is already on shakey legs in general. With various long-run staples of the form already coming to a close, the lack of anything new to fill the void may hit hard.