Art and Entertainment

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Reality Shows Buoy Network Ratings

January 15, 2008 08:28 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the writers strike continues, major television networks replace primetime dramas and comedies with cheap, easy-to-produce reality programming. The ratings suggest it is all the same to the audience.

30-Second Summary

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The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for more than two months. Networks have seen their stores of primetime scripts dry up, and their most popular shows slide into an indefinite period of reruns.

But according to Variety’s Josef Adalian, “Reality shows are doing as well as or better than the scripted shows they've replaced.”

That could be a problem for the WGA. Not only is reality programming cheaper to produce than scripted shows, but New York Times writer Bill Carter reports that NBC’s “‘American Gladiators’ has the look of an out-of-the-gate hit, something no new scripted show this season has been able to claim.”

Jousting bodybuilders are not the only things distracting viewers from a dearth of network programming.

According to the International Herald Tribune’s David Carr, the excitement of the election season is also undercutting the WGA’s cause.

“The primary season is serving as the backdrop for one of the most compelling runs of event television in years, creating the kind of chatter network marketers would kill for and spectacular ratings for cable news," writes Carr.

The Golden Globes was reduced to a press conference, and the Academy Awards may face a similar fate. Yet, the stability of network ratings could defeat the union writers.

Nonetheless, writers have seen progress. The WGA has struck interim deals with independent movie studios Weinstein Co. and United Artists Film, and David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company has also hashed out a temporary deal with the union.

Headline Links: Reality series work against writers

Background: ‘The Golden Globes: Who Cares?’

Reactions: Writers cut deals with investors and studios

Opinion & Analysis: Primaries are the best show in town

Related Topics: The strike’s collateral damage

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