Extra dose of reality due on tube because of writers strike

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champAs a result of the now monthlong strike by the Writers Guild of America, almost none of the most popular shows on prime-time television will be offering new episodes to viewers after the first of the year, or for the near future. In their place on the networks’ schedules will be repeats or reality programs, some of them returning but many of them new – shows like “The Moment of Truth,” a Fox offering in which contestants are strapped to a lie detector and asked about their most intimate secrets on a national stage. The flood of reality programming will be the first repercussion that many Americans will see in prime time from the writers strike, an event that has drawn relatively little concern beyond Hollywood and Manhattan. But the strike looks likely to continue; talks between the writers and Hollywood studios collapsed Friday, with the sides still deeply divided. While late-night talk shows were almost immediately forced into reruns because of the strike, those shows draw a small fraction of the 40 million viewers who tune in to the prime-time offerings of the four major networks each weeknight. The strike-fueled growth in reality programming also has the potential to change the face of prime-time television for years to come. Reality programs generally do not employ union-represented writers. While the most popular dramas and comedies will resume production of new episodes once the strike ends, the strike could mean the end for several new series, like “Bionic Woman” on NBC or “K-Ville” on Fox, that have struggled to gain a regular audience this fall. TELEVISION: Networks looking for ways to fill void left by writers strike. Each year television viewers emerge in January from the traditional December blizzard of holiday specials and college football bowl games seeking new comforts from their favorite comedies and dramas, shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Two and a Half Men” and “House.” Come January, however, they are more likely to be left to joust with the real-life “American Gladiators.” Just as the last writers strike, in 1988, helped to spawn a new form of verite entertainment epitomized by programs like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted,” the current writers strike will witness the debut of a number of new reality concepts. “The Moment of Truth” is but one of as many as 27 hours a week of reality programming that the broadcast networks are planning for the first quarter of 2008, according to schedules released in recent weeks and interviews with network officials. That appears to be the most ever for the relatively young reality genre and represents roughly a 50 percent increase from the 18 hours to 19 hours of reality programming that the networks have scheduled in recent seasons. New reality Among the new reality offerings is “Oprah’s Big Give,” a contest on ABC sponsored by Oprah Winfrey to see who can give away large sums of money to society’s greatest benefit. ABC has long planned to have the series premiere in early 2008, but its potential effect on the network’s ratings is now more important, given that the network’s most successful shows will be appearing in reruns. At the other end of the spectrum is “American Gladiators” on NBC, a revival of a late-1980s competition that pits contestants against professional athletes in feats of strength, and “When Women Rule the World,” a Fox series that features male contestants trying to survive in an environment ruled by women. Not all of the comedies and dramas in prime time will be repeats. Some returning series have long been scheduled to resume their run after the first of the year, including “Lost” on ABC and “Medium” on NBC. Some new series also had been set for premieres in January, including “Eli Stone” on ABC and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on Fox. In addition, some continuing series have one or more individual episodes remaining, including most of the police dramas on CBS. The deluge of new reality programming has become necessary because, in the weeks since the members of the Writers Guild of America stopped working on Nov. 5, nearly all comedy and drama series have shut down production for lack of new scripts. The writers are seeking a deal that will give them a share of the profits derived from the use of their material on the Internet and in other electronic media. Filling schedules The networks are now using the strike as an opportunity to fill their schedules with less-expensive reality programming. Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, said as much at an investor conference on Dec. 4. “We have added a number of reality programs to February,” Moonves said. “We have a lot of terrific plans, and ratings probably will not be as high without the influx of all of our great original programming. But by the same token, costs will be down considerably.” Laurie Ouellette, an associate professor of communications studies at the University of Minnesota, said that after growing steadily in the first half of the decade, the amount of prime-time programming devoted to reality shows had remained relatively flat since 2005. That was thanks in part to the emergence of a new crop of popular dramas, including “House,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Criminal Minds.” “But many of those programs are going to be in hiatus because of the strike,” Ouellette said. “And the networks are responding to the need to come up with shows that are a cost-effective solution to that problem.” Reality shows, which generally cost $1 million per hour to produce, are far less expensive than most prime-time dramas, which can cost $2 million to $3 million per episode. CBS is in many ways responsible for the recent growth of reality programming. After the initial success in 2000 of “Survivor,” the network’s groundbreaking castaway competition, the amount of reality programming in prime time grew steadily, from about four hours in 2000 to roughly 18 hours in 2005. After the first of the year, CBS will double, at least, the amount of reality programming on its schedule, to four hours from two this fall, including another installment of “Survivor,” the game show “Power of 10” and three hours of “Big Brother.” NBC will nearly double its amount of reality programming, to seven hours from four. The network has scheduled one of two hourlong installments of “Deal or No Deal” in the Monday hour formerly devoted to “Heroes” and given over the slot normally filled by “The Office” and “Scrubs” to a celebrity version of “The Apprentice.” And ABC, which has yet to announce formally details of its schedule for the new year, could significantly increase its reality programming from the five to six hours it has run this fall. The network is expected to bring back “Wife Swap” and “Supernanny,” schedule new editions of “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Bachelor” beginning in March, and add new series, including two more dance competitions. The ABC shows could account for as much as 11 hours of weekly programming, although it is unlikely that the network will schedule all of those shows concurrently. Fox, which schedules only 15 hours of prime-time programming per week, compared with 22 hours each for the other three networks, is keeping its total level of reality programming about steady at seven hours. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *