Television gearing up for post-strike return

Wed Feb 6, 2008 8:10pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With a deal taking shape to end a three-month walkout by Hollywood writers, the strike-hobbled television industry is scrambling to get back on its feet and salvage what remains of the broadcast season.

Churning out fresh episodes of hit dramas and comedies after a lengthy production shutdown is more complicated than simply hitting the "power-on" button of a remote control.

Industry executives say it will likely take eight weeks to restore favorite shows like "House," "CSI," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Desperate Housewives" to prime time once the strike ends.

Even if the labor dispute were settled by next week, as some have anticipated, viewers would be unlikely to see original episodes of returning hourlong dramas before early April. The same is true for single-camera comedies such as "The Office" or "Scrubs," which like dramas, are shot more like a film and without live audiences.

Multi-camera sitcoms like "Two and a Half Men" and "Back to You" take less time to make -- three to four weeks from start to finish -- and could be on the air before mid-March.

The film industry, which operates on a production cycle of months or years, has seen a handful of projects put on hold by the strike but otherwise has so far been relatively unscathed.

The television industry has been harder hit since 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on November 5. Studio executives and WGA leaders are said to have agreed on the outlines of a settlement, raising hopes the strike could be lifted as early as next week.

The immediacy of TV makes it more vulnerable to a work stoppage, and with most dramas and comedies halted since mid-December, productions must be ramped up from a standstill.   Continued...

<p>File photo shows "Grey's Anatomy" cast members on the picket line of the Writers Guild of America in front of the Prospect Studios in Los Angeles, California, November 7, 2007. Grey's is among other shows industry executives say will likely take eight weeks to restore to prime time once the strike ends. REUTERS/Hector Mata</p>