Now that the Writers’ Strike has come to an end and Hollywood scribes are getting back to work, our favorite scripted shows are finally coming back. Here is a breakdown of what shows are back, when old favorites will return and why you should care about what’s on.
What have we done without our weekly dose of the Dunder-Mifflin crew? After starting off season four with four-straight hour-long extravaganzas (which have since been split into half-hour reruns), the season was cut short just when it was starting to hit its stride again. But the crew is already back at work and should have six brand new episodes ready to go starting on April 10.
Sorry 24 fans, Jack won’t be back until January ’09. After mediocre reviews of season six, the show, that in its prime was as politically relevant as it was entertaining, was completely overhauled in an effort to recapture its early magic. There’s no more CTU, Jack is going solo, and Tony Almeda is somehow back from the dead (and it looks like he’s now a bad guy plotting a sinister plan against Agent Bauer and, because it’s 24, freedom in general). Because of the completely rethought show-structure, an already rushed production schedule was completely derailed because of the Writers’ Strike. Though eight episodes are in the can, Fox is committed to running the series without interruption in consecutive weeks, so it’ll be awhile before we know what becomes of Jack and the gang.
The show that got rave reviews for its focus on inner beauty and its tongue-in-cheek commentary on the unfashionable side of the fashion industry became one of ABC’s hottest comedies when it debuted last year. But with a solid ratings haul and a loyal (and diverse) fan following, the show shouldn’t be too affected by the hiatus. It’ll be back with four or five episodes kicking off sometime in late April.
The still-underappreciated sitcom staring Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin comes back on April 10, wrapping up the season with five more episodes. But, it’s not like there’s been a shortage of Baldwin in the NBC primetime—younger brother Stephen is a main contender in the surprisingly entertaining celebrity edition of the reality show The Apprentice. Baldwin, who is now runs a skateboarding ministry for youth, provides a consistent moral perspective on the show, and his faith always seems to be a part of the conversation.
Saturday Night Live
SNL wasted no time getting back on the air. And just because they hurried production, doesn’t mean the show was rushed or sloppy—their return to late-night TV (which was hosted by former cast member Tina Fey) scored the show’s highest ratings in two years. Though they may have missed out on some great political fodder in 90-writerless days (wouldn’t it have been great to see some mock primary debates like in the SNL glory days?!), the crew didn’t miss a beat in their political relevance. Republican presidential nominee Mike Huckabee scored huge laughs in his Weekend Update cameo centered around not knowing when to quit. And with hosts and bands lining up (Ellen Page and Wilco will this weekend), SNL is back with a vengeance.
My Name Is Earl
Jason Lee’s surprising hit about a down-and-out dude trying to make up for all his transgressions will be back on April 3. And this time, NBC may be taking cues from The Office playbook. There’s talk of making the eight episodes (or at least a few of them) a full hour long. And if the plotlines seem a little more grounded in reality, it’s because Earl creator Greg Garcia, got a job working at fast-food joint during the strike in an effort to get more in touch with the American TV viewers. The experience was so positive that he ended up giving a fellow employee (who had no idea who he was until Garcia put in his resignation) a check for $10,000 after Gracia was moved by their friendship (which could be an episode in and of itself).
Sorry Lost junkies. The groundbreaking show, which drew a huge audience by asking veiled spiritual questions through the backdrop of a mysterious island, will be cut short as a result of the strike. Lost will take a break halfway through March (so much for the consecutive episode season that was promised before the strike) and resume again in April. And, because of the time restraints and lost production time, a plot outline that was supposed to take 16 episodes, will now be done in 13.
The comic book-inspired show that pins good vs. evil is done until next season. Production is ramping back up in April, and NBC is hoping to air a few bonus episodes (in addition to the 22 already slated) when fall rolls around. Relatable characters, redeeming storylines and savvy production value that brings out the geek in all of us will all have to wait a few months.
Friday Night Lights
No primetime program had more to gain or lose from the Writers’ Strike as the endearing show about so much more than just a high-school football team. Friday Night Lights, which provides a glimpse at the role faith, morality and sports play in American life, had already been on NBC’s chopping block, but with several episodes already in the can when the Writers’ Strike hit, FNL stood as one of the only scripted dramas still airing new episodes. But low ratings (even through the strike) has NBC shopping the show around to smaller networks (including CW and TNT) that may be enticed by Friday Night Light’s loyal fan base of twentysomethings. But, for now, the fate of the Dillon Panthers is still unknown.