Labor Strikes Threaten Future of Favorite TV Shows, Delaying Premieres and Shortening Seasons
Labor strikes by the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) continue to pose a serious threat to the future of our favorite TV shows. As negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) stall, fans fear that the highly anticipated premieres of shows like NCIS, 9-1-1, and Chicago PD for the upcoming 2023/2024 TV season may be delayed, and the seasons themselves may be shortened.
Traditionally, dramas return every September, but due to the strikes, it was initially speculated that premieres would be pushed back to Spring 2024 with shorter, 13-episode seasons. However, as the strikes enter their fifth and third months for the WGA and SAG respectively, it is becoming increasingly evident that even a shortened season might not be possible. Networks might have no choice but to postpone the release of new seasons until September 2024.
Typically, writers rooms for network shows resume in late May, allowing them a few months to prepare for the production of shows like Chicago Fire and Law & Order. By early September, these shows would have been shooting their fifth or sixth episode of the new season. However, with the AMPTP’s lack of progress in negotiations, it seems highly unlikely that a deal will be reached by Labor Day 2023. This has left showrunners like Warren Leight, known for his work on Law & Order: SVU, pessimistic about the prospects of salvaging a 13-episode season this year.
While networks have the option of running series throughout the summer months, the traditional broadcast season runs from late September to May. During summer, networks usually air reruns or shows with expected lower ratings, as people tend to spend more time outside, on vacations, or their children attend sleepaway camps. Reality TV also thrives during these months.
Creating a TV series involves several weeks of pre-production, including outlining the season’s arc, developing individual character storylines, and collaboratively building each episode. Writers then need to write the scripts, receive feedback, and work with the rest of the team to bring the episodes to life before handing them over to the actors. Generally, most shows prefer to have at least four episodes completed before filming begins, allowing for a ten-week timeframe leading up to the middle of September when premiere episodes air.
For certain shows like comedies, production can be quicker due to their simpler technical requirements. For example, a show like Abbott Elementary could potentially produce a 13-episode order for a Spring 2023 premiere. However, for shows like 9-1-1, with its high production costs and complex emergencies, it would be impossible to maintain the usual schedule. Considering that episode 11 of season six was filmed in November 2022 and aired on March 13, 2023, it took five months to complete. If a shortened seventh season were to happen, the writers would need to reconvene soon for filming to commence by November this year.
While the strikes primarily involve the WGA, the SAG is also demanding better working conditions related to safety clauses concerning Artificial Intelligence. The duration of this strike has now exceeded the 2007 WGA strike, making it an unprecedented negotiation period with the AMPTP. Until the AMPTP shows a willingness to meet the requests of the WGA and SAG, it is crucial for fans to continue supporting the casts and crew affected by the strikes. Donations to the Entertainment Community Fund can also provide much-needed support.
As TV viewers eagerly await the return of their favorite shows, the future remains uncertain. With each passing day, the likelihood of delayed premieres and shortened seasons becomes more significant. It’s a waiting game for fans, show creators, and the industry as a whole, with hopes that a fair resolution can be reached soon to save our beloved television shows.