Cable Networks Ramp Up Post-Strike Plans

TNT, Lifetime and others kick-start strike-stalled productions for summer premieres

By the time the writers’ strike drew to a close this week, the effect was already evident in the broadcast networks’ primetime grids. Cable networks, meanwhile, escaped largely unscathed—just barely. Had the strike dragged on for much longer, networks with pricey scripted series might’ve been unable to resume production in time for the summer premiere months, causing them to lose out on advertising dollars.

Most scripted cable summer shows had to push off production – some, like TNT’s The Closer and Saving Grace, by just a few weeks; others, like Lifetime’s Army Wives, for months. Other high-profile delayed shows include USA’s Starter Wife, FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Damages and Rescue Me, and Sci Fi Channel’s Eureka.

TNT, Lifetime and others are putting their series into production immediately, aiming to premiere them this summer, if a week or two late.

HBO, for its part, chose to hold off on shows they’d been eyeing for summer. The pay-cable network would almost certainly have premiered new seasons Entourage and Big Love, and possibly its new vampire series, True Blood, during the summer. But the network ultimately decided to push them all back and use the summer to run its Iraq war miniseries Generation Kill, from Wire creator David Simon, which was ready before the strike.

Many other networks had Plan B’s ready in case the strike impeded their summer shows. ABC Family acquired Canadian comedy Sophie to run if it wasn’t able to produce shows of its own. The network will now likely have enough time to get supernatural drama Middleman, the frontrunner of four pilots it’s considering, on TV for summer. It’s also sitting on six scripts it bought from 7th Heaven creator Brenda Hampton, and may ready those or its Samurai Girl pilot for summer as well.

Showtime, meanwhile, wasn’t affected at all by the strike. The network had already wrapped season two of The Tudors and wasn’t scheduled to start shooting Brotherhood, Dexter and Californication until June. Weeds was able to begin production thanks to an interim agreement between its studio, Lionsgate, and the Writers Guild of America.