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Impact of the Writers Strike in 2008

Biggest Headlines of '08: The Writers' Strike Slows Down Hollywood

This month, as part of my Best of 2008 coverage, I'm going to look back at some of the entertainment world's big headlines. First up: the Writers Guild of America strike.

Though the strike started in November of 2007, it wasn't until early '08 that we really started to feel the effects. While the year started on a promising note — all of the late-night TV hosts returned to their shows on Jan. 2, with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert following soon after — the TV networks quickly started running out of new episodes, dooming us to week after week of repeats and reality shows. Check out this What to TiVo entry from January. It was pretty bleak!

Soon after actors announced they wouldn't attend the Golden Globes, NBC canceled the ceremony and replaced it with a news conference-style broadcast. The result was widely regarded as a disaster, with fewer than 6 million people tuning in.

In late January, after 12 weeks of striking, writers and producers tentatively started speaking to each other again, and the two sides drafted a new contract in early February. On Feb. 12, the strike was officially over, clearing the way for TV and movie writers to get back to work and for major award shows like the Oscars to proceed as usual. By late February, scripted TV was returning, with most shows back on the air by early April. But it hasn't been smooth sailing. To see how the strike is still messing with our entertainment options, just


We heard early on that the strike could shake up TV for years to come, and that became clear when the networks announced their Fall schedules with fewer new shows. NBC made the most dramatic move by announcing its shows early and not ordering many pilots. ABC decided to keep many of its Fall '07 shows (including Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money) off the air in order to "relaunch" them in the Fall. Most of HBO's series were delayed till 2009. Some of you said you'd watch less TV than before the strike, and some of you broke up with a show.

TV felt the aftershocks most strongly, but movies were affected, too. Maybe the biggest example was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had its release date moved from November '08 to July '09 in part because of the strike.

This Fall, many shows struggled to find an audience, especially the "relaunched" shows that many of you dropped — and which are now not being picked up for new seasons. But January '09 will see the return of many of the shows pushed back because of the strike, so maybe we'll soon be able to put it all behind us (barring an actors' strike, of course). And hey, at least a few good things came out of the strike — like an outpost for independently produced TV online, dubbed


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