Sick of squinting at the computer? Given up on books? Lost faith in humankind because of reality TV? Fear not — your favorite shows are coming back, some as soon as this spring.
The Writers Guild of America is set to vote on the terms of an agreement with the major Hollywood studios and producers tomorrow, marking the end of their nearly three-month-long strike. But industry insiders said it's all a formality. Come Wednesday, they'll be scribbling, tapping, and scripting away.
"Everyone's going back to work — TV networks are looking at their schedules, seeing how soon can they get shows back on, seeing if they'll bring back shows in the summer," said Ben Grossman, Los Angeles bureau chief for Broadcasting & Cable. "Now that they know that writers can officially begin writing again on Wednesday, they can finally put their flag in the ground and begin figuring things out."
Most importantly, they will figure out when and if new episodes of some of TV's most beloved shows will return. Here's what to expect:
First, as early as Wednesday: late night talk shows that didn't strike a side deal with their writers.
Second, potentially by April: half-hour sitcoms including "The Office" and "How I Met Your Mother."
Third, possibly by late spring: hit series with a huge following, a la "Gossip Girl."
Fourth, in hibernation until next fall or winter: dramas including "Heroes" and "24."
And then there are the shows that may not ever see the glow of the screen again because of the strike: freshman series including "Chuck" and "Pushing Daises" and the critically acclaimed but ratings-sagging "Friday Night Lights."
Below, ABCNEWS.com's guide to what's coming back when — and what may not survive the strike at all.
Upper East Siders, rejoice: "Gossip Girl" could be back as early as this spring. "The show is probably the CW's top priority," NPR TV critic David Bianculli said of the freshman drama about New York City prep school partiers. "Whatever they can get back on, they will, because they do not want to lose the young viewers who really enjoy that show." According to Georg Szalai, New York bureau chief for The Hollywood Reporter, it's in the CW's interest to satisfy fans' rabid demand for more Blair/Serena drama. "We might see some new episodes as early as this spring," he said. "It could be either before May or even June/July. It would be unusual, but it could happen."
It'll be almost a year before a new day dawns for "24." "You'll definitely not see it until next year," Szalai said. "That show traditionally comes back early in the year and it's a show that requires 24 episodes at the get-go. They won't bring it back over the summer. They'll want to run it as one big block of content next January." Plus, with Fox leading the ratings race with "American Idol," there's no reason for them to rush to get Jack Bauer up and running in '08.
"Lost" fans found new episodes of the hit ABC drama two weeks ago, but it's unclear whether they'll stumble on more when the shortened season wraps up after its eight-week run. "If they get into production now, they can probably get in a few more episodes before the season ends in May," Szalai said. But even if that happens, "Lost" may struggle to regain time lost in the remainder of the series' life. "We don't know if they're going to do the whole 48 episodes or just condense everything into a smaller number of episodes," Bianculli said.
Will Vinnie, Ari and the rest of the boys be back soon? Hopefully, and potentially as soon as this spring/summer. "'Entourage' might be fine," Bianculli said. "A strike isn't going to affect HBO as much as it affects a broadcast network with a more set rhythm." But then again, Aquaman fans are at the mercy of the cable network and its sometimes erratic programming schedules. "We've waited eight vernal equinoxes for a new 'Sopranos,' Bianculli added. "I don't know how many episodes they've produced of this season."
Good news for Dunder Mifflin fans: Michael Scott will resume mismanaging his troops in Scranton soon enough. The half-hour comedy is one of the easiest types of shows to get up and running in a short amount of time. "'The Office' you'll see back before the spring season," Szalai said. "I would assume that NBC could bring it back sometime in April, and they'll still have April and May to run new episodes."
Friday Night Lights
Fans of the high school football drama should brace themselves for a let-down. It was a surprise when NBC renewed the show for a second season last year, and it'll be a surprise if the network picks up the Emmy award-winning show, with a small but vocal fan base, again. "With 'FNL,' the question is whether NBC is going to be smart or stupid," Bianculli said. "They really may not make anymore. They may say this is enough." If NBC does renew, "FNL" will probably begin season three in September. "FNL is still finding an audience, it'll probably only come back in the fall," said Szalai. "The shows that you will see the networks bring back fastest are the ones that they won't need to promote heavily."
Fox's hugely popular, highly inappropriate family will probably be holed up until September. "Animated shows, once you've used up all the scripts you have, you're out for a while," Bianculli said. "They have a pipeline going normally but when you stop the pipeline and run dry, it's going to be six months until you see a new episode."
Like "Friday Night Lights," "30 Rock" is a critical darling, not a ratings powerhouse. But because it's a 30-minute sitcom with A-List stars like Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, it stands a good chance of making it through the writers strike alive. "It's one of those shows that's still developing a fan base," Szalai said. "It'll be interesting to see whether they decide to run more episodes this spring or just hold off on a potential return in the fall."
The surgeons of Seattle Grace will be back in their scrubs in no time. "'Grey's' is one of TV's biggest hits, it'll be back soon," Bianculli said. "I can't imagine a scenario in which ABC does not have 'Grey's' up in time for the May sweeps." Thank the legions of Dr. McDreamy fans for that. "It's similar to 'The Office,' an established show that viewers just can't get enough of," Szalai said. "It's a pretty safe bet for the network."
The comedy that comes before "Grey's" will probably share its fate. "It's a popular show that's not in any jeopardy about being renewed," Bianculli said. Expect more bashful Betty and wiley Wilhelmina this spring. "It'll probably take a little longer than some of the other comedies because of its more intricate production, but I would expect they'll probably bring it back by April and still run six to eight episodes," Szalai said.
How I Met Your Mother
CBS' hit sitcom will speed back to air like "The Office." "There's less lead-time needed for a sitcom like this," Szalai said. So there's a chance that CBS will bring out a few more episodes in the spring."
The fate of "Heroes" is certain: no more supernatural drama until fall. NBC announced that because of the show's high level of production, they won't roll out new episodes until September. "It's a high concept show that usually needs a bigger number of episodes to develop a storyline and it's also a very event-driven show," Szalai said. But the show, which attracted an average of 14.3 million viewers in its first season and dipped in popularity in its second, could suffer from the lag time. "It's a shame, Bianculli said, "because you have to worry about the momentum on that show."