The WGA Has Reached a Tentative Deal. What Does That Mean for Fall TV

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It’s been a big month in the TV world. In the past two weeks, Drew Barrymore announced her talk show would be returning, then backpedaled with a since-deleted apology video, before ultimately calling off the decision, announcing that the show would not resume until after the writers strike ended, following pressure from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

On Sunday evening, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative agreement, which paused picketing. WGA leadership is slated to vote Tuesday to officially end the strike—and to approve the contract that its negotiating committee and the studios and streamers came up with.

WGA writers on daytime shows, like The Drew Barrymore Show and The Jennifer Hudson Show, and late-night talk shows, like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, would be able to resume working as soon as the new agreement goes into effect. Scripted shows will take a bit longer to get up and running, especially given that actors are still on strike.

Amid the flurry of updates, questions remain over what it will look like when you turn your TV on this fall.

Both the WGA and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) were striking (the latter still is) over concerns around compensation and the looming threat of artificial intelligence. As streaming has usurped broadcast and network TV, residual payments for both camps have trickled to nearly nonexistent.

Of course, striking writers and actors, after 146 and 74 days on the picket lines, respectively, are surely more eager to get back to work and earn a paycheck than viewers are to see their favorite shows resume. But as everyone awaits the next chapter in this saga, here’s a guide to what to expect on TV this season.

What shows are on TV this fall?

In the absence of new scripted TV, broadcast TV will be populated by hearty doses of reality TV, game shows, reruns (or old episodes that are new to the network), international fare, and some animated shows. Both reality TV and game shows—as well as morning news shows, talk shows, soap operas, variety shows, and sports—are covered by a different SAG-AFTRA contract than the one that expired in mid July. 

Also returning are broadcast shows that were filmed before the strike began, including fresh Quantum Leap and Magnum P.I. and new NBC shows Found and The Irrational. Animated shows like Krapopolis, Gamera Rebirth, and FLCL: Grunge, which tend to have longer lead times than their live-action counterparts, will also premiere. 

New reality shows, though there are few, include The Golden Bachelor and Buddy Games, plus new seasons of Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Big Brother, now extended into the fall. 

What shows aren’t on TV this fall?

Scripted shows on broadcast networks will not have new seasons this fall. This includes Abbott Elementary, Grey’s Anatomy, Ghosts, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order. Fox postponed the Primetime Emmy Awards, which drew in 5.9 million viewers last year, until January. (The four major broadcast networks rotate turns hosting the ceremony.)

Already, broadcast viewership has been on a steady decline—since well before the strikes began, leading to reduced budgets for shows and more investment in unscripted TV, which is less expensive to produce. 

“The networks were weakened to begin with,” a broadcast veteran told Deadline. “It’s like they had a sprained ankle. This is taking a baseball bat to their knees. Everyday, they’re just teaching people they don’t need broadcast TV.”

Will there really be more reality TV programming?

The short answer is no: Broadcast channels were already programmed with a glut of reality shows. We’ll see plenty more of preexisting series like The Voice, Survivor, The Amazing Race, and The Bachelor—shows that, as the New York Times pointed out, have steadily become broadcast staples, gradually squeezing out original content—one major complaint of the writers’ strike. (Dancing With the Stars, for its part, has become a bit of a lightning rod. One of its celebrity contestants, Veep actor Matt Walsh, walked out in solidarity with the WGA, and it seems that other contestants may do the same despite SAG’s assertion that those actors are not crossing a picket line, so it’s likely that the Sept. 26 premiere will be delayed.)    

The Golden Bachelor spinoff—featuring a 72-year-old widower as its romantic lead—is technically new, as is Buddy Games, in which six teams of four friends reunite to compete in challenges while bunking together in one lake house.

How do streaming services factor in?

Both cable networks—like A&E, Bravo, FX, Hallmark, and TNT—and streamers are more insulated than broadcast networks. They typically bank series like Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and Hulu’s The Other Black Girl further in advance, so the effects of the strike may feel more removed. 

Other shows, like Yellowstone, True Detective, Echo, What If…, and X-Men ‘97, are slowly being pushed down the release runway. (Yellowstone, however, is broadcasting its preexisting streaming episodes on CBS, where they haven’t been seen before.) They either haven’t finished writing and/or shooting, or the streamers worry that they might fall flat without the usual press appearances.

It’s been an ongoing debate: to shelve or not to shelve a show? Many series are fully filmed, edited, and ready to go, but executives seem nervous to send them out into the world without their stars. What’s The Handmaid’s Tale without Elizabeth Moss, or Euphoria without Zendaya? No one knows how long the strikes will last. So should the streamers be rationing the content that they do have? Each platform has a different amount of shows and movies in the can to move to the backburner. What they all seem to have in common is that those decisions remain murky.

Among those that have already been completed, some shows are pushing through the lack of promotion and releasing anyway: a Frasier reboot on Paramount+, the John Wick prequel spinoff The Continental on Peacock, Gen V on Prime Video.  

The streamers—Netflix, Max, Hulu, Disney, Amazon—are major players in the union members’ concerns. The residuals that these companies pay writers and actors have continuously shrunk, rarely ever enough to live on. But the streamers are also vast repositories of older, preexisting content, ready and waiting for consumers to return to and binge watch. The irony persists: WGA and SAG-AFTRA may be striking against streamers, but simultaneously nudging viewers toward them.

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