With WGA Strike Over, Nets Get On With Show Business

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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 Gracesometime 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.

Cable’s Post-Strike Scripted Roster
HBO
John Adams, debuts March 16 
Entourage, returns in the fall
True Blood, debuts in the fall
Little Britain, debuts in the fall
12 Miles of Bad Road, debuts in 2009
Big Love, returns in 2009
Tell Me You Love Me, returns in 2009
Flight of the Conchords, returns in 2009
SHOWTIME
Weeds, returns June 16
Secret Diary of a Call Girl, June 16
The Tudors, returns March 30 
State of the Union, premieres March 30
This American Life, debuts in May 4
Californication, returns this fall
Dexter, returns this fall (CBS encores begin Feb. 17)
Brotherhood, returns this fall
The L Word, currently airing
USA NETWORK 
In Plain Sight, debuts April 24
Monk, no deal yet for new season 
Psych, new episodes expected for summer
Law & Order: Criminal Intent, new episodes expected for summer
The Starter Wife, to be determined
SCI FI CHANNEL 
Battlestar Galactica, new season bows April 4 
Stargate Atlantis, fifth season to run this summer
Eureka, to be determined
Sanctuary, to be determined
TNT 
The Closer, returns this summer 
Saving Grace, returns this summer
Leverage, debuts later this year
TBS 
My Boys, returns this summer 
Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, new episodes in March 
The Bill Engvall Show, returns this summer
A&E 
Cleaner, premieres this summer
FX 
Dirt, seven episodes start airing March 2
The Riches, seven episodes start airing March 18 
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, possibly this summer
30 Days, returns this summer
The Shield, after the summer Olympics, in September 
Damages, possibly fall 
Rescue Me, this fall or early next year
LIFETIME 
Army Wives, returns in June
AMC 
Mad Men, second season debuts this summer
Breaking Bad, currently airing
ABC FAMILY 
Greek, returns March 24
Middleman, debuts this summer
Kyle XY, to be determined
BET 
Somebodies, to be determined 
Wifey, to be determined
STARZ 
Crash, debuts in August
SOURCE: Multichannel News research

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