The writers’ strike is now officially over. So, it’s back to business for cable and broadcast networks — many of which last week announced production and launch dates for new and established scripted shows.
Showtime, the premium service, said the three-month-long strike by membership of the Writers Guild of America didn’t affect the production schedules for many of its shows, like Weeds and Dexter.
“We just managed to have all of our shows end their production cycles virtually all of the same time around October and November, so all of those shows took their natural hiatuses and we would normally would be assembling our writers right around this time,” Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt said.
Weeds was able to go forward with production during the strike, because of an interim deal the show’s production company, Lionsgate, reached with the Writers Guild in January. As a result, the network will launch new episodes in June of the popular series featuring Mary-Louise Parker. For its part, rival HBO is pushing the launch of traditional summer shows such as Entourage into the fall, due to production delays associated with the strike. (See accompanying chart for a schedule of cable series rollouts.)
The four broadcast networks also announced post-strike plans, with NBC and CBS opting to launch new episodes of popular series in late March and early April. NBC comedies My Name is Earl and 30 Rock will return with new episodes on April 3 and April 10, respectively, while CBS will bring back dramas Cold Case, Criminal Minds and CSI: NY during the week of March 30.
But with the exception of Fox, which will offer new episodes of reality series such as So You Think You Can Dance, the broadcast networks will once again yield the summer months to cable and air repeat programming (see related story on page 8).
“They’re looking at the audiences that are available, the costs involved and where they’ll get the largest potential audience, and that usually begins in the fourth quarter,” said Katz Television Group director of programming Bill Carroll. As a result, viewers won’t find new programming from broadcast networks airing in July or August.
But cable networks will fill their summer schedules with original scripted series. TNT will return The Closer and Saving Grace sometime between June and September, while Lifetime’s Army Wives will return in June.
Other programmers, such as A&E Network and TNT, announced post-strike development of new original scripted series. A&E gave the go-ahead for production of the drama series Cleaner, starring Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) as an “extreme interventionist” who seeks to cure others of their addictions. TNT will give Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, A&E’s Nero Wolfe) a starring role in Leverage, about a group of modern-day Robin Hoods.
Other networks won’t be bringing some of their shows back after the writers’ strike. Lifetime executives said that State of Mind, about a therapist with her own personal problems, will not return for a sophomore run. The fate of the network’s other 2006 summer series, Side Order of Life, is undetermined.