On Tuesday, May 2, the first Hollywood writers’ strike in 15 years began. America’s film and television writers have called the work stoppage as a means of putting pressure on the big studios. Before this measure was taken, the union sought a total annual salary increase of $429 million, while the studios only offered an increase of about $86 million, aimed primarily at improving conditions for first-time screenwriters. Television is the medium that would be most affected by this strike, especially if it drags on.
For now, the first programs to be impacted have been the late-night shows — Jimmy Fallon, Steven Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel — which are already broadcasting reruns. Nor will there be new episodes of Saturday Night Live, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or Real Time with Bill Maher. Big channels have had to postpone their new programming schedules or cancel some shows. If the strike lasts until September 17, it could even result in the Emmys not taking place.
As for the fictional series, we’ll have to wait for the strike to go on to see if there’ll be any effect. Abbott Elementary, for example, was going to start its third season, but with the writers’ room shuttered, it’s possible that there will be fewer episodes next year. Before the strike was called, Cobra Kai’s sixth season was being written — the production team has already announced that the episodes will be delayed. The writers’ room for Yellowjackets had only been working for a day when it was shut down by the strike. Although the second season of Good Omens may be released this summer, the writer and screenwriter Neil Gaiman has warned that the studio shouldn’t count on him to do a promotional tour if the strike is still in effect.
In other cases, production isn’t in jeopardy. For instance, the second season of House of the Dragon was already written before the strike. In fact, it is expected that, throughout this month, filming of the show will resume in Spain. The filming of the second installment of Andor will also continue without changes. The new episodes of Tokyo Vice — now being filmed in Japan — are still on schedule, as the scripts were already prepared well in advance. The filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (season two) will go ahead without the presence of writers on set — something that the production team was already prepared for. Meanwhile, the fourth season of The Mandalorian has also already been written in full.
One of the most popular series — Stranger Things — began writing its fifth season last August, although Netflix has not yet confirmed if it was completed on time. The Writers Guild of America has warned that everything that is recorded while its unionized screenwriters are on strike must scrupulously respect scripts that were already written, without a single word being changed. Other streaming platforms have hence stopped their production, due to being unable to count on having scriptwriters on set.
Free-to-air television series, such as Grey’s Anatomy or Ghosts, will not see their immediate broadcasts be in jeopardy and will manage to end their current seasons without a hitch, as the episodes were already written and filmed. However, if the strike is prolonged, it could be reflected in a forced delay to the start of the 2023-2024 season, or the production of fewer episodes, given that it’s typical for screenwriters to start working towards the end of May. However, some of those series had already been renewed and had new episodes underway. Those that will be affected more immediately are daily dramas. Although they work with a time margin between episodes, if the strike lasts more than a month, viewers could notice the consequences.
That being said, The Hollywood Reporter explains why it will be more difficult for viewers to notice the consequences of this strike compared to the one that took place 15 years ago. On the one hand, there are now digital platforms, with thousands of hours of permanent content and international production, which won’t be affected by a U.S.-based strike. In addition, the strike is taking place when the television season is already ending, so the strike would have to last for a long time to be noticed (the 2007-2008 strike began in November, right in the middle of the season). And, with late night talk shows already in the doldrums — making up an outdated format with declining ratings — the absence won’t do too much damage to the studios, which have already been preparing for this strike by stockpiling reality shows. For instance, Dancing With the Stars — which was set to air exclusively on Disney+ — will also be seen on ABC next season.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studios could be prepared for a three or four-month-long strike. This will make it difficult for the screenwriters to endure. However, one thing they have in their favor is that several directors and actors could also go on strike, as their contracts expire in June.
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