Pillbox

No more reruns

“Wait a minute — words in the prompter, script on my desk, vending machine upstairs out of Funyuns?...*The writers are back!*”

So began the Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The occasion? The end of the 14-week strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which shut down the production of scripted television from Hollywood to New York. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or The Colbert Report, Numb3rs or even the Golden Globes — chances are your TV-watching habits have been altered in one way or another by the three-month-long strike. The writer’s strike is estimated to have cost the industry over $2 billion in L.A. alone, also hampering businesses that rely on television productions to survive, like limousine, catering, and hotel companies, according to a report from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

The WGA East and West began their strike on Nov. 5 when the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) disagreed over the terms of their new contract. While not all of their demands have been met, the most important items were agreed upon, and the new contract is generally considered to have been the best that could be hoped for. Primary concerns that were met were an increase in the amount of earnings the writers get from the sale of DVDs (doubled from 3 percent to 6 percent), and a percentage of profits gained from Internet media and content, a new market whose profitability is unclear. The writers’ union and the heads of major television companies remained at a standoff for three months before working out a tentative contract that satisfied both groups’ needs. Though the board of the WGA had unanimously voted to accept the AMPTP’s offer over the weekend, the strike was not officially called off until last Tuesday, when the members of the WGA East and West voted to stop the strike by a 92.5 percent margin. Writers were allowed to go back to work on Wednesday (or, if they really wanted, Tuesday night), and production has begun on many once-quiet television sets.

Chances are that you’re getting a bit tired of those trashy (but addicting) reality TV shows like American Idol, Rock of Love II with Bret Michaels, and Moment of Truth. So, now that the writers are getting the money they deserve, the most important question arises: When will new episodes come out? With only three and a half months left in the season, networks have been making critical decisions on how to make the most of that time.

Late-Night talk shows like The Colbert Report and Late Night with Conan O’Brien have already gotten their writers back, much to their hosts’ relief. Next to come back will be the half-hour sitcoms in the beginning of April, as they are the easiest to produce. Networks are also pushing for the biggest money-makers, such as Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl to come out with several new episodes, while serialized dramas have unfortunately been pushed back until next year. Lastly, the fates of many freshman series are fairly uncertain. Those that did badly before the strike, such as Bionic Woman and Cavemen, got axed before they could waste any more airtime.

The writers may be back, but Hollywood still needs time to produce their shows. Happy TV watching!

Want more specifics? Need a new show to watch? Here’s your show-by-show rundown, according to TVGuide.com:

24: Sadly there will be no Kiefer this year. FOX has postponed season seven until January 2009 so they can run all the episodes without a break.

30 Rock: Look out for Liz Lemon and her SNL-style TV show on April 10. 30 Rock is expected to come out with five episodes by the end of the season, depending on Alec Baldwin’s availability.

The 2008 Academy Awards: Need your fix of a real awards show with the proper glitz and glam? Jon Stewart is hosting the 80th annual Oscars on Feb. 24. Writers have a mere two weeks to write jokes that typically take months.

Battlestar Galactica: Battlestar Galactia comes back April 4th. The first half of the final season is already filmed, and production for the second half will start in March.

Cavemen: The Geico commercial spin-off has been canceled. Oh well.

CSI: All three crime scene investigators are coming back this spring. Miami will be the first, with eight episodes starting on March 24. Next is CSI: New York with seven episodes starting the April 2. The original CSI will return April 3rd with a six-episode run.

Desperate Housewives: No set air date yet, but the housewives are going to return with seven new episodes sometime in April. It’s been renewed.

Friday Night Lights:] The fate of this football drama is unclear, but if it does come back it won’t come back until next season. Possible cancellation.

Gossip Girl: The CW is planning to bring back the New York high-school drama on April 21 for the five episodes.

Grey’s Anatomy: Missed McDreamy? He’s coming back for five episodes sometime in April or May. Production is starting in mid-March and it’s been renewed for another season. Let’s hope that Rose gets out of the way of MerDer.

Heroes: Though it’s definitely not canceled, Heroes is not coming back until fall. The special effects and shooting time make it impossible to start a good run before the end of the season. Get your sci-fi/fantasy thrills somewhere else; the second season was going downhill anyway.

House: The doctor is in. Expect four new episodes of Hugh Laurie’s hospital drama sometime in April/May.

Law & Order (CI, SVU): The traditional Law & Order is shooting 5 more episodes that will air April 23. Criminal Intent (CI) will be back sometime in April/May, but the details have not been worked out. Special Victims Unit will be back on the April 15 with five new episodes.

Lost: Five more pre-strike episodes are left. The crew expects to shoot five more episodes, and they are set to come back for two more seasons. The number of episodes not produced this season will be tacked onto the next two seasons.

Medium:This psychic drama has six more pre-strike episodes left, along with another seven to be shot in March.

My Name is Earl: NBC announced that Earl will return with a one-hour episode on April 3. Look forward to the rest of the NBC Thursday comedy block returning shortly after.

New Adventures of Old Christine: Seven pre-strike episodes remain, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus and crew aren’t expected to shoot any more for this season.

Numb3rs: Let’s solve crimes with horribly inaccurate math! Numb3rs is coming back with six nerd-crime-fighting episodes on April 4.

The Office: Michael Scott and the Dunder Mifflin Co. return to Scranton on April 10 with six new episodes. Oh, Pam and Jim — I missed you.

Prison Break has one pre-strike episode. The future beyond that is unclear; it may not be renewed.

Pushing Daisies: This cute Amélie-style drama about a pie-maker who can bring people back to life was one of the lucky few freshman dramas to get renewed for a second season. However, it’s not coming back until fall.

Saturday Night Live: Returns this Saturday, Feb. 23, with former head writer Tina Fey as the first host.

Scrubs: In its final season, Scrubs has five pre-strike episodes that will begin airing on April 10. Hopefully, the crew will be allowed to finish out the season on TV and produce four additional episodes, but NBC might have them go straight to DVD.

Smallville: There are three remaining pre-strike episodes that begin airing March 13. Superman returns with five post-strike episodes on April 17.

Supernatural: One last pre-strike episode will air on Feb. 21. Four post-strike episodes for the hour-long fantasy with begin on April 24.

Two and a Half Men: CBS’s Charlie Sheen sitcom is coming back soon on March 17 with nine episodes.

Ugly Betty: America Ferrera returns for five episodes in April/May.