Post-Strike TV Scenario: Programming Malaise Where You Least Expect It

Watching TV brings happiness, grief, and general malaise this year.

Now with the writers' strike over, we can all hope for anything but continued melancholy.  Still, there are the signs.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" didn't miss a beat. During the writers' strike, Leno kept his lead over Letterman and the rest with guests including Larry the Cable Guy and plenty of cute and strange animals. Letterman had real writers, we are told -- and it made no difference.

A recent original episode of "Lost" witnessed its ratings drifting lower -- all while we are still, in theory, waiting for a host of original episodes from other favorite network series to be rushed to market, all to save the day for the broadcast season.  

This defies typical supply and demand situations.

No wonder the networks are sticking to their in-strike plans of scheduling some upstart cable shows -- CBS airing Showtime's "Dexter," NBC looking to air USA Network's "Psych" and "Monk."

NBC has decided to take a chance on the Internet series "Quarterlife" -- but not without some help. MTV Network will get to premiere the series - all to give NBC some hard-to-come-by, young-skewing viewers. I guess that ruled out NBC's sister networks -- USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo and Oxygen.

This isn't a science. This isn't art. This is not even gambling. This is grocery shopping on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You eyes get zapped by some flashing packaging, some nutritional information that meets you needs, and you dive in. Suddenly you're eating added-soy, flaxseed-enhanced tortilla chips on the couch.

These are calculated risks, somewhat north of the level of frivolous decisions.  That's TV programming this year -- and, what advertisers are paying for.



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