Television Holding Up Despite Writers’ Strike, For Now

With the advent of the recent writers’ strike by the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America (WGA), many scripted television programs including “Chuck” and “Grey’s Anatomy” as well as many late-night shows have been postponed, many being replaced by unscripted reality shows. As a result, the quality of television without writers has undoubtedly taken a severe hit, and these replacement shows, although attracting phenomenal ratings, will not satisfy the public forever.”

“American Gladiators” is currently the most popular of the “replacement” shows, drawing 12 million viewers for its premiere. It is a remake of a 1990s syndicated show in which contestants compete against “gladiators” in various feats of strength such as the Joust, a one-on-one battle with large-tipped weapons over a pool of water. Many fans of the show appreciate the enhanced special effects. The show recently withstood tough competition from the last new episode of “Desperate Housewives” which ABC had apparently postponed just to run against it.

“[The WGA] hit us with all they had, and now they’re out of bullets,” said Donald J. Trump, who works for NBC.

Though “Gladiators” is certainly one of the more worthy shows fit to replace scripted media, the overall logistics of the show are disappointing. Despite the aesthetic tweaking, the show seems too staged with lengthy commentaries after each event. Hulk Hogan does a deplorable job of hosting, overusing the word “brother” and sporting a painfully obvious yellow wig.

Late-night shows have also taken a significant hit from the strike. Jay Leno, along with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, recently announced a January return of their respective shows after a two-month breakdown. Leno’s show began broadcasting January 2. However, progress has not been smooth. Filler media is disgustingly obvious, and ratings have gone down the drain.

Critics have noted a substantial drop in quality of “Late Night” since its re-airing. Among several hindrances, Leno is now forbidden from writing his traditional monologues due to strike rules, since he himself is a member of the WGA. A recent showing involved Leno resorting to using elementary school students and their New Year resolutions on the show. Leno has lost a quarter of his viewers since the strike due to this sloppy media.

David Letterman, the host of his own “Late Night Show” had reached an agreement with the WGA in late January and is now one of the few operating with writers at his disposal. The WGA also proclaimed that its unions would urge actors and politicians to appear only on Worldwide Pants shows, giving Letterman a virtual monopoly of Robin Williams. Much of Leno’s audience, uninterested in his reruns, is also turning to Letterman.

But one show can dominate the media for only so long, regardless of the time of day it is. Soon audiences will be bored with Letterman and will want Leno back in his prime. With shows like “Gladiators” filling for everything else, prime-time television will soon degrade into something is mediocre at best.