Will a possible strike bring cable shows to network TV?


Ah, it’s September: Time for the new fall TV schedule. It’s always an exciting time in TV land, high with expectations and anticipation. New shows arrive and old favorites pick up where they left us hanging from a cliff the previous season. Yay to new TV! But uh-oh: This new TV season has a cloud hanging over its head. The writers may strike, and that may force TV and film production in the U.S. to shut down cold in October. Boo to that possibility. Networks are now dealing with a bad case of the “what ifs,” as this article explains.

A strike would leave the major U.S. networks with only a fraction of the episodes completed for the various shows scheduled to air in prime time. What’s a network to do? If TV creativity comes to a screeching halt, what will be the replacement? Even more non-scripted reality shows? Game shows? Nighttime news programming? Quelle horreur! The networks need a plan quick, and they are looking to international productions, independent productions and maybe even their own cable networks for a few loans. I must admit that I find the idea of pilfering from cable somewhat intriguing. It’s not that I want a strike, believe me. But if it happens, just think of the exposure and boost some of our favorite shows with our favorite women might get if their parent networks were to showcase them as regular programming.

NBC owns USA, Bravo and Sci-Fi. With USA’s Burn Notice (featuring Gabrielle Anwar), NBC could actually show a relatively new program with decent reviews. Sci-Fi channel could offer Battlestar Galactica, and just like that, true intergalactic science fiction could return to a major network at no real added cost.

And rather than creating more reality programming, NBC could air Bravo’s Project Runway and Top Chef. Oh my, Padma Lakshmi in prime-time network glory? Be still my Padma-loving heart.

ABC is owned by Disney. Goodness, do they have an array of programs to choose from. Hannah Montana has 5 million viewers on the Disney Channel! Oh, and do not rule out a nice ABC ratings boost with as showing of High School Musical and High School Musical 2. Disney is also in a joint partnership with Hearst, making the Lifetime channel possible: Is there an Army Wives in ABC’s future?

FOX’s cable channel FX has Nip/Tuck and Damages. The idea of seeing both those shows in prime time on an over-the-air channel gives me the giggles. What a great way to get Glenn Close onto network TV without really trying.

CBS owns Showtime. Needless to say, in order for CBS to air any of their Showtime shows, a marathon editing session would be in store for each show. If they had to edit The L Word for a CBS debut, there’s a chance that an entire season would fit in a 27-minute infomercial format! Oh, wait — Desperate Housewives shows more racy scenes than The L Word of late, so maybe all 45 minutes could fit. CBS already aired Brotherhood (with Annabeth Gish) to try to boost that show’s exposure and allowed for language and violence. But oh, how my heart would squee over Weeds in prime time. Can the country really handle Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins)? Because Showtime is a pay channel, there’s no doubt that Weeds and The L Word would be new to many viewers. But adding paid sponsors to those shows might be more combustible than pouring gasoline onto Nancy Botwin’s cash crop and lighting a match.

The other cable show with a strong female lead is The Closer (starring Kyra Sedgwick).

Warner Brothers sees The Closer as an independent production and is said to be actively shopping the show to the major networks.

I have no real knowledge of how this borrow-from-the-other-channels-we-own process works, nor is there any guarantee that this will happen at all. But the thought of seeing some of cable’s best and most fun and entertaining programs on the major networks is a little like imagining a favorite minor league player being called up to the big leagues. It would be even funnier and more amusing if one of these “minor leaguers” could Wally Pipp a major-league show. OK, so that’s pretty far-fetched, but it’s still fun to think about.

Most of us take our TV for granted. We turn on our favorite shows and laugh or cry or hiss; then we turn them off and wait for the next installments. But what happens when the next installment is in limbo or months away after being abruptly discontinued with no conclusion in sight? Ugh. Is there a silver lining in any of this for viewers? Well, seeing some of the best vehicles for women move from cable to network channels might take the sting away. Briefly.

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