The writers' strike in the United States has claimed its first major long-term casualty, with the Fox TV network announcing it's pulling the hit show "24" from next year's schedules.
The "real-time" series starring Keifer Sutherland had completed shooting only a third of its 24 episodes for the show's seventh season. Filming was also affected by the recent wildfires, and producers were already having to work around Keifer Sutherland's upcoming jail stay, after a drunk-driving conviction.
While the strike is only in its first week, Fox claims the early decision to pull 24
was aimed at reducing losses from marketing spend. (Promos for the new season of 24
have already screened during the baseball 'World Series', as well as in Times Square).
Over 12,000 film and tv writers have walked off the job in the United States, after contract negotiations with the major studios broke down last week, despite three months of negotiations.
The crucial sticking point in the dispute between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers comes down to how writers are compensated when films or tv shows are sold online, and the issue of 'residual payments' for DVDs and clips used for promotional purposes.
The strike immediately affected topical late night TV shows like Jon Stewart's The Daily Show
, Jay Leno's The Tonight Show
, and The Late Show with David Letterman
, which have all gone into repeats.
NBC's The Office
has also stopped production with just two new episodes in the can, after lead actor Steve Carell refused to cross picket lines. (Several writers are also actors on the show). NBC's Law & Order: SVU
is also preparing to halt production.
ABC's Desperate Housewives
is another shutting up shop, with the support of the show's creator Marc Cherry. Writers have been protesting outside Universal Studios (where the show is shot), but were visited by Desperate Housewives
star Eva Longoria, who delivered pizzas to show her support. A number of TV sitcoms have also 'gone dark', with little stockpiling of scripts, and a reliance on writers to rewrite and tweak scenes during production.
The major TV networks and movie studios have been stockpiling scripts over the last six months, to help protect them against a possible strike. The networks claim viewers will still see little disruption to many of their favourite shows in the short term, with many having at least half of their season orders in the can.
However, mid-season programming is expected to be affected if there isn't a quick resolution. The 2009 TV pilot season could also be hit, which could see networks searching for more reality and sports programming, as well as renewing 'marginal rating' shows.
The Writers Guild is preparing for a long fight, and has a $12.5 million strike fund to provide loans to writers in financial need. The last major strike by writers (almost 20 years ago) lasted 22 weeks, and cost the tv and film industry around US $500 million.