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Televisionist, Nov. 15

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Maybe you've heard: There's a little row going on right now between the folks who write TV and those who broadcast it. The Writer's Guild of America is on strike. The beef sits largely on “new media,” chiefly TV content on the Internet. The writers want a piece of the pie, but since it's likely in its nascent stages, the two sides are having trouble agreeing on a projected revenue split. Even with Gov. Schwarzenegger set to lend his Teutonic heft to the talks, industry insiders speculate that the strike could last until next spring.

So what does that mean for TV watchers? Well, for starters, no “Daily Show,” no “Colbert Report,” nor any other late-night talk show. That is, until networks and hosts get desperate and wing it sans writers. During the five-month-long writers strike of 1988, Johnny Carson filled the time by looking at photographs with Ed McMahon. Maybe Jon Stewart will devote whole shows to interviewing people in his Bush/weasel voice.

Elsewhere, “The Office” is already in reruns, while addicts of shows like “Grey's Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “CSI,” “Pushing Daisies,” “The Unit” and “Heroes” have about 10 episodes to look forward to. “Friday Night Lights,” “Ugly Betty,” “House” and “Prison Break” have closer to 13. Animated shows like “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill” have a full season's run of nearly 20 episodes to air. Of course, in tough times, networks are likely to send shows on hiatus quicker than usual, so expect a long layover during the Christmas break.

During those breaks and in the void left once they finish, look for a new, unprecedented surge of reality programming. In 1988, Fox created “Cops,” placing it in the Saturday night spot, where it's remained ever since. Who knows what the evil geniuses of TVnetworkland will come up with this time?

In the months to come, we'll use this space to help point you to alternate programming. Stay tuned. And don't stress losing your shows too much: “The Wire,” also known as THE BEST SHOW ON TV, will air its season in full beginning in January on HBO. Now might be a good time to catch up on past seasons on DVD.

Lindsey Millar

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