TV in 2008: A midseason strike’s nightmare

Remember when we were all asking, “What will
the networks do if the writers really do strike?” That question is sooooo last year. Now,
a few detailed answers seem to be popping up. And the answers
will continue to play out, over and over and over again in
reruns, right there on the new 52-inch LCD big-screen TV your loved one gave you this holiday season. Fine, you bought it for
yourself. Whatever; love is love.

Anyway, back on point, I
have been mildly annoyed by the slew of teaser ads from
the various networks touting "new" episodes of some of the
top-rated shows. I’ve seen ads for Desperate Housewives, Grey’s
Anatomy
and CSI, but of course the networks fail to mention
that there really are only one or two new episodes of these shows left to air.
OK, fine, they do say "a new episode," which implies one single
episode, but wouldn’t it be nice if they said, "the absolute last
new episodes to be seen this season because we walked away from talks
with the writers so if you miss this episode you ain’t seeing a dang
thing new from this show for quite awhile, suckers!" — or something
like that? Is that asking too much?

According to Yahoo TV, there will be a lot of new programs worth
watching in the upcoming months. Now, I’ve heard of trying to make lemonade
from a bag of sour lemons, so maybe that’s the point of reference for
this, but their list of winter premieres doesn’t exactly make me rush off to set my DVR. And as we’ve suspected, it does seem that reality shows,
game shows and shows brought over from cable sister stations
will be offered as new fare for however
long the strike lasts. CBS has all but named the actual time slots for the Showtime shows they plan to use. Plus, most
of the midseason replacement shows have not yet filmed their full schedule
of episodes. The much anticipated (well, for the women-who-dig-women crowd) Cashmere Mafia has only 7 of 13 episodes in the can. Seven is certainly better than none, that’s for sure. The Futon Critic has a very comprehensive list of
what the networks will look like for the next few months.

Now, I freely admit that
I have seen and enjoyed a reality show or two in my day, but the idea of
a prime-time schedule loaded with reality shows is a nauseating one. Actually,
I take that back — it’s more depressing than sickening. Though I firmly
believe that real life is indeed stranger than fiction, real life is
not always as creative, clever, funny or insightful as fiction. Since
we all lead real lives, we are all contestants in our own reality shows already!
Give me scripted entertainment, please. That way when I make fun of
it, I’m really only being rude to fictional people, not real ones!

Look, if things get really
bad — which at this point seems inevitable — and there is a need
for more combo reality/game shows on network TV, then may I suggest Battle of the Primarily Female Casts? We can be
transfixed watching the women of The L Word, Cashmere Mafia,
Lipstick Jungle
, Women’s Murder Club and Desperate Housewives
battle it out in three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, synchronized
swimming, drill team competitions, basketball (the L Word cast would
so win that one), flag football and a rousing game of team Twister!
See how easy and unenlightened reality programming can be?

What
if people actually stop watching their TVs and read a book or 10 or
get involved in community organizing or invest real time in public
school board politics or maybe begin to engage in some quality relationship
or family time? What kind of world would that lead to? The thought of
that might just scare the producers and writers into a contract.

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