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The Writer’s Guild Strike Kills Sci-Fi Television

StrikeShortly after midnight on Monday morning, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike after negotiations with Hollywood over their contract fell through. The largest issue was new media: burned in the 80’s by accepting a sub-par royalty scheme for the emerging home video market, the WGA doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice, and not only wants a larger cut of the DVD pie but also a large chunk of new media proceeds. Hollywood wasn’t having it; the Writers walked out.

Unfortunately, the Writer’s Guild strike is leaving sci-fi fans in the cold.  The biggest issue is with television. There’s a science-fiction renaissance currently going on, and almost all of it is on television. Heroes, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka… the airwaves are full of smart, episodic sci-fi shows. And the Writer’s Strike has officially killed all of these shows off until further notice.

In BSG’s case, the fourth season won’t start until the end of 2008, and won’t conclude until 2009. For Heroes, the second season will be ending in early December, with no word as to when the show will pick up again. As for Lost‘s newest season, it may not even be aired: word has it there’s only a scant few episodes in the can, not enough to even bother showing. Sci-fi television fans will find their non-rerun options exhausted by the end of the month.

The film prospect is slightly better. Films can still be produced, though writers can’t work on rewrites. That means that a lot of stockpiled scripts will begin production, but because writers won’t be involved in on-demand rewrites, these films may be of a much lower quality narratively.

There’s no telling how long the strike will last, but it’s likely that the Execs will blink first: the writers seem unlikely to budge on their (seemingly just) complaints about new media royalties. What’s depressing for a sci-fi fan is the realization that this strike may very well kill-off many of our favorite shows: when the writers striked in 1988, television lost 9% of its audience permanently, and many shows never recovered. It’s only going to be worse for sci-fi shows in 2007, almost all of which are slowly unraveling episodic stories.

For the sci-fi fan, it’s a bleak time. For the next few months, we will need to look over the seas, to Doctor Who and the like, to supply us our serialized sci-fi fix.

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