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Bad news: TV Shows Shutting Down as Strike Continues

Posted by gnn1 on Wednesday, 7 November 2007

TV SHOWS SHUTTING DOWN AS WRITERS STRIKE CONTINUES

Sitcom and drama sets are going dark – and in many cases, much quicker than the nets and studios had anticipated.

Laffer “The New Adventures of Old Christine” could conceivably produce a seg this week – but exec producer Kari Lizer shut the show down, as star Julia Louis-Dreyfus hit the picket lines in support of the scribes. Fox’s “Back to You” was set to return from hiatus on Wednesday, but that table read was scrapped, and it now appears the show won’t return until the writers do.

Also already dark: Fox’s “Til Death” and CBS’ “Rules of Engagement.” And it doesn’t appear like much is getting done over on NBC’s “The Office” either.

Even shows still in production will likely go dark in the next week or two, as those remaining scripts are shot, with nothing left in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, latenight TV remained dark Tuesday as word leaked out that “Late Show with David Letterman” had told its support staff that it would keep cutting paychecks for two more weeks. It’s unclear if the checks will keep coming after that, or if Letterman will decide to return to work. It’s believed other latenight shows have given staff members similar notices.

The big issue dogging the nets on the primetime side is the high volume of exec producers refusing to cross the picketlines even to perform non-writing chores on scripts that have already been completed. That’s forcing shows to shutdown sooner than the webs expected, even under the strike scenario.

In the past two days, Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield,” “The Unit”) have come out publicly with statements declaring they won’t help wrap up episodes in the works. It’s a change from the pre-strike conventional wisdom that such showrunners would stay on the job.

“I absolutely believed that I would edit our episodes,” Rhimes wrote in an e-mail widely circulated late Monday night. “Until a thought hit me: how can I walk a picket line and then continue to essentially work? How am I supposed to look at myself in the mirror or look at my child years from now and know that I did not have the courage of my convictions to stand up and put myself more at risk than anyone else?”

To be sure, many showrunners are still clearly offering help to their shows. Even if they’re not crossing picket lines, the fact that so many skeins remain in production indicates showrunners are working from home.

Still, the greater-than-expected showrunner solidarity is the result of a concerted effort by the WGA to shore up support among its most high-profile members. Nearly 100 showrunners attended a pre-strike powwow Saturday. And on Wednesday, plans are underway for a picketing session featuring only showrunners.

From Wild Sound (second article on page)

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