So like most people, I was happy to hear that the Writers' Guild strike finally came to an end, and that we'd get to see new episodes of some favorite TV shows soon. But this harshed my mellow a bit.
Of the shows that do come back this season, none will manage more than nine new episodes. It's one thing to get only five of the expected eight episodes of Lost but quite another to learn that there will be reruns stinking up March, when the whole point of holding the series until January was to avoid interrupting the story (interruption = lost viewers). It's better than nothing that fans of great comedy -- and there's precious little great comedy on television -- will get five more episodes of 30 Rock and six more episodes of The Office. Except half of the 10 previous 30 Rock episodes seemed to appear randomly -- which didn't help in a momentum-killing strike season -- and, frankly, five more are not enough. Only eight episodes of The Office have aired (four were an hour in length). Fans were promised 30 episodes this season.
NBC said Heroes wouldn't come back until the fall, where it will be "launched," which sounds suspiciously like a do-over. Fox is delaying 24 until January 2009. Does such loyalty still exist among television viewers?
Though some series are clearly a casualty of the strike, with networks deciding against restarting production because the costs outweigh the anemic ratings, a definitive swing of the ax has yet to happen (but it will, and probably within a month). But it gives off the whiff of hope where precious little exists for shows such as Bionic Woman, Journeyman (NBC); Big Shots, Cavemen (ABC); Cane (CBS); K-Ville (Fox); Life Is Wild (CW); and others.
More cynically, a number of freshman series that were doing well or moderately well in the ratings -- Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money (ABC); Life and Chuck (NBC), among others -- have been postponed until fall. Do you know how far off fall is in the TV business?
An argument can be made that those series are being protected by the network and they will provide the core of the programming next season because this year's development process was essentially torched by the strike. And yet, an argument can also be made that freshman series that were barely on the air won't make appealing sophomore candidates. And what happens if shows that are being developed this year test well? How about this: "What do you mean where's Life? Oh, that. Um, we lost it."
Which is all just a very cynical way of saying, "There will be blood -- lists of returning shows or not."