The good, the bad and the Gladiators

Or, "How I learned to enjoy week 10 of the writer's strike"

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As households throughout the land tidy up their holiday decorations for another year, members of the striking Writers Guild of America appear to be settling in for the long haul as their labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers stretches well into its tenth week.

The striking writers aren't the only ones preparing for the duration, as the WGA declined to grant the Golden Globe awards ceremony a strike exemption, forcing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to replace the event with a simple press conference unceremoniously doling out the awards. Industry pundits fear that the prestigious Academy Awards ceremony in Feb. may face the same fate should the strike not be resolved by then.

Meanwhile, two key deals were signed: Tom Cruise's United Artists production company and David Letterman's Worldwide Pants--which produces Letterman's Late Show and Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show--signed deals with the WGA, allowing both to employ writers. Letterman's deal came right before the return of the usual suspects of late night talk shows--NBC's Tonight Show and Late Night, CBS' Late Show and Late Late Show, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and Comedy Central's Daily Show and Colbert Report--in early Jan. without writers. Despite hopes that the deals would signal the splintering of the producer faction and open the floodgates for a similar, larger deal, a strike-ending deal hasn't materialized thus far and the return of the late night shows signals the networks attempting to return to business as usual.

With no writers to speak of and a limited backlog of scripted programs prepared, "business as usual" for the networks involves quite a bit more reality television than usual. ABC brings back Dancing with the Stars in Mar., but is also bringing viewers a showdown between the lead judges in Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann, where Bruno and Carrie Ann put together their own competing dance squads! Wowzers! The major networks don't stop there, exemplifying "going back to the well" with season nine of Big Brother in Feb., season 16 of Survivor ("Fans vs. Favorites") in Feb. and season 12 of The Bachelor in Mar. The seventh season of The Apprentice, featuring celebrities, is now airing on NBC.

The award for Best Strike Program undoubtedly goes to NBC's revival of American Gladiators, hosted by Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali and featuring a bevy of jacked-up men and women pummeling the competition. It helps that the show was in the works well before the strike was called, but also that the concept is amazingly simple and the program goes to great lengths to explain things to new viewers. The worst program may be FOX's upcoming Moment of Truth, where contestants are challenged to answer questions truthfully (via polygraph) with the chance to win a cool $500,000.

After wasting several weeks and several hundred million dollars, it's unlikely that the two sides in the writer's strike are any closer than they were when it all began. The end result for the average viewer is the disappearance of their favourite shows, replaced by an onslaught of reality programs, sub-par, mid-season replacement shows and writer-less late night talk shows. On the bright side, there's always Lost...for eight weeks, at least.

At press time, rumours were rampant that the Directors Guild was close to a deal with the AMPTP, which may or may not lead into a resolution to the writer's strike. Tune in next week for details!