Awful Reality: Networks Are Doing Better Without Writers

By Jon Costantino 2008-01-11 16:04:13 discussion comments
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It canít be true can it? Could the writersí strike be actually be working in the networks favor? It might be too early to tell, but the early numbers have shown that the reality shows that have replaced some of your favorite scripted comedies and dramas are doing just as well as the ones they replaced, and in some cases, even better.

According to Variety, all three networks have not had a serious amount of damage done to them by the strike. In what has to be one of the saddest developments of the strikeís numbers game, ABCís Wife Swap, which last featured a family that smeared food on its curtains and passes wind, as doing the exact same rating as Pushing Daisies. This canít bode well for the gang at The Pie Hole, since Wife Swap is so much easier to produce than a show that features at least one talking zombie an episode. Soon, instead of people asking, ďWill Ned and Chuck ever find true love?,Ē most ABC viewers will be waiting anxiously to find out if Bubba will finally take out the garbage like Lou-Anne wants him too. And itís not the only scary scenario right now.

Over at NBC, American Gladiators, which I have already detailed some disappointment with, is also keeping up with the numbers that Chuck was having in the same Monday night slot. Now, we know already that Chuck isnít in trouble, since its getting a run in the next few weeks on Thursday, but itís still troubling. And with all the abuse that Heroes got for not meeting Season 1 expectations, the last thing it needs is to hear that shows like The Biggest Loser and The Celebrity Apprentice are actually outperforming the average ratings for NBCís scripted shows.

If you think the news is grim for the writers who are on strike, how Ďbout those who actually come to work now. Variety says that Jay Leno, with his one-man monologue and lack of Hollywood guests, is still beating the WGA-approved Late Show With David Letterman with a full-on writing staff. After both shows returned in 2008, Jay won the first night, which everyone expected, since people would tune if Jay was going to run his late-night train into a brick wall. But itís now two weeks later, and people still havenít come back. So while Dave tries somehow to get the upper-hand, NBC can now reap the benefits of not having to pay twenty people for the job apparently one person can do. The picket line outside of the Peacock must be smoking with the throngs seething writers, while an audience files past them into The Tonight Show studio, not really caring if the scribes are involved in the show at all.

If this strike continues to linger, its only going to get worse for the writers. The one saving grace could be the return of Lost. If the survivors of 815 can pull a big audience, and maybe take a few viewers from Mr. Trump on January 31st, maybe the networks will see the value of scripted comedies and dramas. But if reality shows continue dominate the ratings in 2008, you wonít be seeing plane crashes on the prime-time schedule; theyíll have been replaced by train wrecks.
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