One of the longest, most-expensive labour disputes in industry history officially ended Tue., Feb. 26 as a staggering 93.6 per cent of the Writers Guild of America voted in favour of a new contract that will see them hard at work until 2011. Even though the writers have now returned to work, many are wondering what the resolution of the strike really means.
First and foremost, it doesn't necessarily mean that all your favourite shows will soon be back on television. The financial cost of the strike, estimated to be from $1.5-2.1 billion, has forced the Hollywood moguls to tighten their belts. More precisely, it's meant that some shows have already been quietly cancelled. Many of these shows were terrible--Cavemen, I'm talking about you--but rumours have been swirling about the future of the critically-acclaimed, yet ratings-challenged Friday Night Lights. Heck, even mega-popular FOX hit 24 has seen the unveiling of its season delayed by a year, until Jan. 2009, due to the strike.
If your favourite shows haven't been cancelled or had their return delayed, odds are they'll return to your living room sometime in Apr. Most networks anticipated the end of the strike and carefully rearranged their schedules to avoid allowing their competitors to gain an advantage. So, even though most shows will be producing smaller-than-usual seasons, most of them will actually be broadcasting later in the year than they usually do.
The most long-lasting effect of the strike may be the one that nobody really notices, at least not right away. During the hustle and bustle of the picketing, NBC head Jeff Zucker quietly cut pilot season, citing mounting costs in a period of economic uncertainty. Pilots are one-shot episodes of new shows, designed to sell the network on producing each as a series. Pilot season was a springtime ritual where dozens upon dozens of hopeful episodes were shot and viewed, many of them never seeing the light of day. The upshot of shooting a ton of pilots, however, was wiggle room. NBC's megahit The Office began as a pilot, replacing the mediocre sitcom Committed, and soon became a network staple. Without a pilot season, not only would shows like The Office perhaps not see air, but crappy shows like Committed, Joey or Cavemen would stay on television simply because networks have nothing to replace them with.
The WGA strike was one of the darkest times in recent entertainment history, where at times it seemed like writers would never get back to work. Now that the strike is finished, its repercussions will likely be felt for years to come, even if the writers don't strike again in another three years.