A Winter of TV Discontent?
Skeet Ulrich in Jericho by Cliff Lipson/CBS
Just a thought: If the strike lasts much longer, do you think CBS'
house has room for all of us? I joke, of course, but I also fear that if things don't get resolved soon, it's going to be a long, cold winter indeed for fans of good old everyday regular non-reality TV.
In the last few days, we've seen cliff-hanger episodes of
that felt like season finales, and for all we know, that's what they might be, if production doesn't resume early in the new year for the back half of their seasons. For the first month of the writers' strike, viewers didn't feel much pain (except for fans of late-night comedy, the first casualty) because we were in a sweeps month chock-full of original episodes. Life went on as usual. That's about to end. There are scattered episodes of many series yet to air in December, and a few leftovers for early 2008. But come the new year, the TV landscape's going to start looking mighty different. The situation is only now beginning to come into focus.
True, there are bright spots in the most recent announcements from the networks regarding their strike-contingency schedules in early 2008. CBS' hilarious and underrated
The New Adventures of Old Christine
will return with new episodes Jan. 28, bumping the painfully mediocre
Rules of Engagement
. (A new as-yet-unscreened sitcom,
, will take over for
The Big Bang Theory
, which was shut down by the strike just as it was hitting its stride.) These comedies will air alongside repeats of Monday fixtures
How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men
Also on CBS, fan favorite
is returning with the seven-episode reprieve the network granted after being besieged by tons of peanuts and countless e-mails. It returns Feb. 12 in a time period likely to be a challenge: Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET, following new episodes of the first-ever winter season of
(which will also air Wednesdays and Sundays).
's Tuesday time period has been a death slot for CBS ever since
folded. Maybe this cult drama will turn things around.
Over at NBC, after months of confusion for longtime fans, the original
Law & Order
has finally resurfaced and will return to its old Wednesday time period of 10 pm/ET starting Jan. 2. (It will be preceded by episodes of
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
, previously shown this fall on USA Network.)
NBC has also announced that
Sex and the City
will take over for
on Thursdays at 10 pm/ET on Feb. 7, after
wraps its run of completed episodes.
The shoe has yet to drop over at ABC, which has its own
, ready to go, but the network so far has only confirmed the start date of
Dancing with the Stars
on Jan. 7.
Fox was the first to announce an elaborate post-strike midseason schedule back in early November, the highlight of which is the launch of
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
on Jan. 13 and 14, the same weekend originally set aside for
, which is now on indefinite hold until the strike is history.
Other early winter highlights include the final season of HBO's excellent
, starting Jan. 6, and a series of new adaptations of Jane Austen novels on
on Jan. 13.
Otherwise, brace yourself for a tsunami of reality programming that will make the winter look an awful lot like last summer. The fact that CBS can so easily fill three prime-time hours a week with
is the sort of news you'd think would give striking writers pause, if not chills. (Of course, two of those hours are already currently filled by reality shows:
The Amazing Race
. In the first weeks of 2008,
's slot will be assumed by Drew Carey's addictive game show
Power of 10
.) CBS also has its 16th cycle of
on tap to begin Feb. 7, where it will likely dominate its Thursday hour again.
NBC is embracing reality like gangbusters, with the celebrity edition of
taking up valuable Thursday real estate starting Jan. 3. Three nights later, the network revives
with a two-hour opener on Sunday before it takes over the Monday slot currently held by the delightful
. (Happy new year, everybody!)
The Biggest Loser, 1 vs. 100
and who knows how many editions of the inane
Deal or No Deal
will help fill the schedule.
Fox, which will soar to the top of the ratings next month with multiple weekly airings of
, is already making headlines with its controversial lie-detector reality experiment,
The Moment of Truth
, which will join
on Wednesdays starting Jan. 23.
We've managed to survive previous attempts by Fox's reality division to degrade and destroy civilization as we know it:
The Swan, Who's Your Daddy, Temptation Island
, the list goes on. I just wonder, if the strike drags on too long into the new year, how long it will take TV itself to bounce back and regain our trust and affection after all of this unwanted and unnecessary disruption?