Prepare for a potentially lackluster fall television schedule.
With the first Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in 15 years in full swing, the more immediate future of some of your favorite content hangs in the air.
The strike began May 2 after six weeks of high-stakes negotiations between the WGA and the trade group Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Thousands of unionized scribes say they are not paid fairly in the streaming era. (The WGA represents some of NBCUniversal’s news division employees. Comcast, the corporation that owns NBCUniversal, is represented by the trade group.)
The strike has brought production on some broadcast programs and streaming shows to a virtual standstill, upending the entertainment industry.
But viewers may not notice a difference in programming just yet, according to Oliver Mayer, a professor of dramatic writing at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts. But that will likely change if the strike continues as expected premiere dates for shows or seasons come and go.
“There’ll be a lot of reruns. There won’t be as much content,” Mayer, who is an emeritus member of the WGA, said. “It’s a matter of weeks, not months from now, that a good consumer of this material is going to notice the drought.”
What shows are already affected?
The late-night shows were the first to feel the impact.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers;” CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert;” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!;” and HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and “Real Time With Bill Maher” all went dark as soon as the strike commenced.
“Saturday Night Live” on NBC also halted its 48th season. The show will air repeats for the foreseeable future, Variety reported.
Actor and talk show host Drew Barrymore stepped down as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards show, which aired Sunday.
“I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike,” she said in a statement to NBC News. “Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation.”
Production on some returning shows have also paused. Many TV showrunners shared their solidarity with fellow writers in updates for viewers on the status of their shows.
Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, known as the Duffer brothers, announced they’d halted production on season 5 of their hit Netflix series “Stranger Things."
“Writing does not stop when filming begins,” they wrote in a tweet Saturday. “While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then -- over and out. #wgastrong."
Jen Statsky, the creator of “Hacks,” tweeted that the HBO show is stopping production.
“Writing happens at every stage of the process — production and post included. It’s what makes shows and movies good,” she wrote in her tweet.
Quinta Brunson, creator and star of the Emmy Award-winning sitcom “Abbott Elementary," said she is also a part of the WGA and is on strike "demanding fair compensation for writers!"
Writing for season three of Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” was put on hold after one day, according to co-creator Ashley Lyle.
She said in a tweet that she hopes to return to the writers room after a fair deal is reached.
“Cobra Kai” also closed its writers room for season six until a fair deal is agreed on, co-creator and writer Jon Hurwitz said on Twitter last week.
"We hate to strike, but if we must, we strike hard," he wrote.
Mayer said viewers can expect that the writing on their favorite shows might be affected after the strike, even if the guild succeeds at negotiating sooner than expected.
“We all have to jump back into writing and as the world changes, a storyline that might have been on a show that you like, depending on what’s going on in politics or whatever — the storyline will change,” he said.
How about shows filmed internationally?
"Game of Thrones" creator George R.R. Martin confirmed that the second season of the “House of the Dragon” spinoff began filming April 11 in the United Kingdom and will continue production.
“The scripts for the eight s2 episodes were all finished months ago, long before the strike began. Every episode has gone through four or five drafts and numerous rounds of revisions,” he wrote in a blog post Sunday. “There will be no further revisions. The writers have done their jobs; the rest is in the hands of the directors, cast and crew… and of course the dragons.”
Martin emphasized his “unequivocal support” for the strike — and said that the writer's room for his other "GOT" spinoff, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight," "has closed for the duration."
Amazon Studios’ “Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power,” which films in the U.K., is moving on with production, a spokesperson for the studio confirmed.
Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which films in Canada, halted production of its upcoming season. Creator Bruce Miller announced his participation in the strike and has been retweeting other writers' updates from the picket line.
“We are on strike, we excused ourselves. Excused? What are we, seven years old? We don’t need to be excused, thanks,” he wrote in a tweet.
Unpacking the writers strike with WGA negotiatorsMay 9, 202306:46
International writing guilds including The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Australian Writers’ Guild, The Writers Guild of Canada and The New Zealand Writers Guild have thrown their support behind the WGA.
“As a fellow guild and member of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) will support the WGA during its strike to the fullest extent possible,” the WGC wrote in a memo. “The compensation issues raised by WGA writers are the same concerns affecting writers around the world.”
What happened during the last strike?
The 2007-08 strike lasted 100 days and cost the California economy at least $2 billion, according to Mayer. He said the strike didn’t just affect the television and film industry, but also the entire city of Los Angeles.
“It was a really painful period, restaurants suffered,” said Mayer, who also serves as associate dean of strategic initiatives and associate dean of faculty at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. “In a town like this, when the industry shuts down, everybody feels it.”
In a town like this, when the industry shuts down, everybody feels it.
-Oliver Mayer, professor of dramatic writing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts
Viewers at the time also pointed out that some show finales or storylines didn’t make sense or were cut short.
Emmy Award-winning series “Pushing Daisies,” whose first season was cut from 22 episodes to just nine, was canceled after two seasons, which some in the industry say happened as a result of the strike.
Season two of “Friday Night Lights” was cut from 22 episodes to 15. Viewers criticized the season's plot surrounding Landry, a polite and humble student at Dillon High, played by Jesse Plemons, killed a guy. Season three didn’t follow up on previous storylines and provided little explanation for some events that happened in the previous season.
“Heroes,” “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chuck,” “Breaking Bad” and “Scrubs” were also among the popular shows that were interrupted by the strike.
The strike also helped lead to the rise of reality television shows such as “The Apprentice” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians."
(NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News, as well as NBC, which previously aired "Heroes,” “Chuck” and “Friday Night Lights" and “The Apprentice.” It is also the parent company of E!, which ran “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”)
So, what can viewers watch?
Mayer said he expects that networks and studios have stockpiled projects, especially when the potential of a strike loomed over the industry.
So, there might be new shows and movies premiering that were finished months before their release.
The production companies might finish the project at one time, “but they’re holding on to material that they can mete out over the course of months, even into the fall, to see how long they can go without having to compromise with our guild,” Mayer said.