Writers’ strike ends, TV returns

It’s almost 9 p.m. Thursday night, and the lights are out. With zero hour approaching, the rapidly filling room becomes cramped. People whisper excitedly with one another in the dark until a voice hushes them, issued forth from the flickering television. All eight sets of eyes are glued to the screen. At long last, it is time.

p. This isn’t some kind of cult meeting, but a group of friends coming together for their weekly ritual of watching “Lost.” Similar groups are forming across the campus and nation. Many shows like “The Office,” “Scrubs” and “Grey’s Anatomy” boast such dedicated followings.

p. With the end of the writers’ strike, shows are free to produce more episodes. The most popular fan favorites are returning with shortened seasons, while less-watched and up-and-coming shows remain benched until the fall. This result is bittersweet: The situation is far from optimal, but it’s definitely better than the alternative.

p. “I figured that the executives wouldn’t see any merit in keeping newer shows, like ‘Pushing Daisies,’ around when they hadn’t had a chance to gain a large following,” Lauren Estes ’09 said.
However, the battle in Hollywood didn’t eliminate viewer entertainment entirely.

p. “The strike didn’t really affect the amount of television I watched. I just found shows I wouldn’t normally have seen, like ‘Veronica Mars’ and a lot of anime,” Nathan Jamerson ’09 said.

p. Others, like Luci Samp ’10, “just didn’t turn the TV on, period.”
Meanwhile, some television personalities found ways to keep themselves fresh without the aid of their writing staff. Comedy Central’s political demigods Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were among the most notable.

p. “The highlight of the strike was Stewart and Colbert. They were still really good,” Gustavo Elias ’08 said.

p. Conan O’Brien proved to be another blessing during the drought. His comedy became a shelter of familiarity for many fans. His talk show simply became an hour showcase of his best assets – his randomness and trademark self-deprecation – alongside an increased number of interviews.

Last Thursday, NBC’s “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “Scrubs” returned after months of storyline inaction. Undoubtedly, one question was on all viewers’ minds: Would the shows measure up after being on break for so long?

The answer, thankfully, is yes.

“The Office” returned at top form, focusing on a couples-only dinner party at Michael’s house. The awkward tension was at an all-time high, as spats happened between the couples and with each other. Steve Carell was at his best, antagonizing his now live-in girlfriend Jan. The highlight of the episode was when Dwight arrived to the couples-only party with a date at least 15 years his senior and the fallout that ensued from his appearance. It was top-notch entertainment; the writers and actors made it plainly obvious they were glad to be back at work.

“Scrubs” was also a gem this week. Over the past few seasons, the quality has slowly declined, as character relationships grow more convoluted, and the writers run out of ideas. Still, it’s one of the better shows on TV. This week’s episode was fresh and interesting, balancing the series’ iconic drama and comedy perfectly. Scrubs will air five more episodes this season, which was meant to be its final. However, the producers are in talks with ABC to make one last season of 18 episodes to finish off the show’s unresolved ties. Cross your fingers.

In coming weeks, “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” will both return from their strike-related breaks. Losties only had a month off from their show, which premiered its fourth season in January.
“Grey’s Anatomy” also returns for five more episodes in the final week of April. Like its peers, it will suffer a shortened season. Some planned plot arcs have been cancelled, like one featuring “Dawson’s Creek” star Joshua Jackson as a new doctor. Others have been delayed until next fall. Thankfully for Grey’s fans, both “Grey’s Anatomy” and it’s spin-off “Private Practice” have been picked up by ABC for additional seasons.

Whatever happens for the rest of this season, thanks to the amiable agreement between execs and writers, fans can still say, “There’s always next year.”

__Matthew Falwell is a Critical Condition columnist. He watched every episode of “Dancing with the Stars” during the writers’ strike.__


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