Like Last Strike, Shows Will Seek Ways To Restart Without Writers

Solidarity with a striking union only goes so far, as the 2007-08 TV writers’ strike demonstrated.

Back then, a number of shows went back into production weeks before the strike was settled after a lull that came immediately after it started. 

That was the last time that the Writers Guild of America walked out and staged a strike protesting the way they were being compensated by producers, networks and studios in the midst of seismic changes in the development, production and distribution of TV content.

Then as now, they were striking for greater participation in the newly configured production business, which in recent years has been burgeoning and reconfiguring once again.



In 2007-08, production across the TV industry was disrupted, but it was most visible to the general public in the late-night arena.

More than perhaps any other category of entertainment television, the late-night shows depend on their writers to churn out the timely, current events-based material that is their nightly lifeblood.

Following the start of the current WGA strike this past Tuesday, the late-night shows all went into rerun mode -- “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Daily Show.” “The Late Late Show” has already been in reruns following James Corden’s farewell last month.

One outlier is “Gutfeld!” on Fox News Channel, which remains fresh daily. The show reportedly does not use WGA writers on its staff.

The 2007-08 strike lasted for just over three months -- from November 5, 2007 to February 10, 2008.

If the new strike lasts as long, it will be over on or around August 2 (although, obviously, no one can say at this point how long it will go on).

The odds are very good that it will still be underway by the time the May Upfront Week comes around May 15 to May 18, 11 days from now.

If that is the case, picketers can be expected to turn out in force outside the New York Upfront venues.

The TV Blog also expects network execs, ad buyers and journalists to bypass the picket lines and attend the Upfronts anyway.  

The TV Blog cannot predict, however, if the TV stars who normally appear to promote their shows at the Upfronts will stand in solidarity with the people who write their scripts.

Anyone who watched Rosie O’Donnell with Jimmy Fallon this past Monday night on “The Tonight Show” (pictured above) saw the last live “Fallon” show they are likely to see for an extended period.

The reason the late-night shows have gone immediately dark is obvious: They have no writers.

It may also be true that, at least in the near term, the hosts of the shows figure it is better internal politics to at least look like they are supporting their writers than not supporting them. After all, these are colleagues with whom they work closely on a daily basis.

But in the last strike, none of the late-night shows that were on TV then sat out the entire strike, having eventually devised ways to proceed without their writers early in the new year of 2008. 

“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” restarted on January 2, “Late Show With David Letterman,” January 2, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” January 2, “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,” January 2, “The Colbert Report,” January 7, and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” January 7.

Of all the late-night shows, only the weekly “Saturday Night Live” sat out the strike for its entirety, restarting on February 23, 2008.

As for the other various categories of TV shows caught up in the 2007-08 strike, many of them had to suspend production.

Some of the more memorable of the era’s shows had shortened seasons -- including “30 Rock,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Breaking Bad.”

One footnote to that strike involved another category of TV programming whose existence depended on churning out episodes daily -- five afternoon soaps that all eventually restarted during the strike with non-union writers.

The timing of that last strike is not the same as this one. The current strike could stretch into the summer season long enough to affect production on the fall network shows, or any shows whose networks or streamers planned to launch them in the fall. 

How might the prospect of a delayed fall season affect upfront deal-making that is about to commence? That’s an open question.

More than in 2007-08, the production of TV shows today is fast, furious and constant in order to feed the voracious streaming beasts which have adopted a business model that calls for them to always be producing and introducing new shows as often as possible.

This may give the striking writers more leverage this time around than they had in 2007-08. In theory, if there are no TV writers, the streaming beasts will go hungry.

2 comments about "Like Last Strike, Shows Will Seek Ways To Restart Without Writers".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ben B from Retired, May 4, 2023 at 11:39 p.m.

    I believe that the late night shows return in Sep if there is still a writers strike or a deal is reached I think a deal will be made in July or Aug in my opinion.

  2. Jay King from King Enterprises, May 6, 2023 at 12:22 p.m.

    Watch Guyfeld! on Fox News. Wittier and funnier than big government spokesholes like CBS/NBC/ABC "comedians", Gutfeld actually writes hi own material, so he's impervious to union writers strikers.

Next story loading loading..