In the television world, all the talk is about the Writers Guild of America strike, which has shut down basically every series that require writers — from “Desperate Housewives” to “The Daily Show.” But among the viewing public locally, the writers’ walkout has had minimal impact so far.
“I don’t really see any effect,” WRTV (Channel 6) G.M. Don Lundy said in an e-mail. “ABC is still running original episodes of their series along with a lot of holiday specials and the audience ratings have been good.”
The local network affiliates say they’re seeing little change in ratings. In late night, which should have seen a noticeable drop when the shows went into repeats in early November, viewership is essentially flat. “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno” was down from 4.7 percent of all Central Indiana homes in November 2006 to 3.4 percent last month — not great, but no one at WTHR (Channel 13) seems too concerned.
“The Late Show with David Letterman” was only down half a ratings point in November, from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent, compared with the same month in 2006. And “The New York Times” reported over the weekend that Letterman is pursuing a deal with the Writers Guild that would allow his show to return in early January with his writers, even if the strike is still continuing.
In daytime, soap operas are still fresh and will be for the foreseeable future. An ABC spokeswoman said the network’s daytime dramas “are written well into the new year, and we will continue to produce original programming with no repeats and without interruption.”
The biggest impact eventually will be felt in prime time. But this being the season for reruns, it’s unlikely anyone would be surprised if Thursday night’s “The Office” or any night’s “CSI” turn out to be ABS (already been seen).
Established prime-time shows will be hurting soon, but there will be plenty of new midseason shows. Fox, of course, has the No. 1 show on television, “American Idol,” ready to return in January. And while “House” is being disrupted and “24” will be delayed, Fox will plug holes with the “Terminator”-related “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” among other new scripted shows, and “Moment of Truth,” a lie-detector game show.
“I have almost no concerns on the Fox side,” said Jerry Martin, G.M. for Indianapolis’ Fox station, WXIN (Channel 59), and local CW station, WTTV (Channel 4).
ABC (Channel 6) has “Lost” back Jan. 31 and announced a midseason schedule last Friday that includes a couple of new series (“Eli Stone,” about a lawyer who thinks he might be a prophet, and “Cashmere Mafia,” from “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star) as well as new reality shows “Oprah’s Big Give” and “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann.”
CBS (WISH Channel 8) will be putting on new episodes of “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Jericho,” a sitcom called “The Captain” and a season of “Big Brother.” There’s even talk of filching shows such as “Dexter” from its pay channel, Showtime. How that’ll play on network TV — this is a show about a cop who’s a serial killer, after all — should be interesting.
NBC (WTHR Channel 13) brings back “Law & Order” and “Medium” and unveils a new series, “Lipstick Jungle.” It’s also counting heavily on reality — “Celebrity Apprentice,” the game show “1 vs. 100” and more of “The Biggest Loser.”
And The CW (Channel 4) will unveil a new season of “One Tree Hill,” as well as “Farmer Takes a Wife,” which is exactly what the title suggests. The CW also has an advantage: Its ratings have been so dismal this season that even in reruns, its shows will be new to most anyone who turns on the network.
At this point, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: There’s not much here I want to watch. So the question is: How long can the strike go on?
WISH G.M. Jeff White said the strike “will have very little impact on programming over the next 90 days. If the strike were to continue, CBS has a number of well-proven reality programs to air mid-season.”
WXIN’s Martin said he’s hearing the strike could be settled early next year. If it’s not, “It could go on for a long time.” Not that he’s all that worried. “I don’t think there would be any noticeable effect on Fox till fall.”
Fox may not be affected, but we certainly will be. If you need proof of how valuable the writers are, just watch.