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May 2, 2023, 1:33pm EDT
mediaNorth America

Here’s what happened to TV shows and movies during the last writer’s strike

The 2007 WGA strike.
The 2007 strike. John Edwards/Wikimedia Commons
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The News

Writers in Hollywood are going on strike for the first time since 2007.

As the 11,500 unionized members of the Writers Guild of America walk out due to failed contract negotiations, it brought back memories of the last WGA strike, which lasted 100 days from November 2007 to 2008.

Any many of those memories are ... not so great.

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Here’s a recap of how shows and movies were affected by the last walkout.

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Rushed scripts

Many studios rushed through scripts ahead of the 2007 strike, leading to incomplete or low-quality scripts being put into production.

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One infamous example is Quantum of Solace, the 2008 James Bond movie. Daniel Craig, who played Bond, said in a 2011 interview that they had the bare bones of a script going into filming “and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do.”

And there were no screenwriters available to make adjustments to scripts in real time, so Craig and the movie’s director had to make on-set rewrites. “A writer I am not,” Craig said.

The movie received mixed to negative reviews, with one critic calling it a “scriptless mess.”

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Other movies that suffered from rushed scripts and received poor reviews included Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Talk show hosts fill time

Shortly after the strike began in 2007, late-night talk shows began airing reruns.

Some returned to the air without writers before the strike ended, and had to resort to time-stalling tactics.

Conan O’Brien, who paid his staffers’ salaries out of his own pocket during the strike, famously filled airtime by playing a game to test how long he could spin his wedding ring on his desk.

Reality TV wins

The 100-day strike caused a heavy pivot towards unscripted reality programming, eliminating competition and boosting viewership for shows like The Amazing Race, American Idol, and the first season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

On Twitter, TV writer and comedian Ashely Ray wrote that the 2007 strike inadvertently helped keep The Apprentice running despite its low ratings at the time. The show then became The Celebrity Apprentice, boosting host Donald Trump’s profile.

Shows got cut short

Some scripted shows continued to air, with several relying on non-union writing staff. Others paused briefly or were cut entirely such as Breaking Bad, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Simpsons.

Heroes, which received poor ratings during the show’s second season that aired during the strike, also halted production.

The premiere of the second season of Friday Night Lights is notorious for featuring an odd plot line in which the character played by Jesse Plemons commits a murder.

According to The Washington Post, the writers had a plan in place to resolve that plot line naturally, but they never got the chance, as the season got cut short. Only 15 of the season’s 22 episodes had been written before the strike.

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Notable

  • In the past, unscripted programming like reality TV has been used to plug programming holes during prime time, but now, with streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, ”there is already a glut of content — unscripted and otherwise — for viewers to watch,” the LA Times wrote.
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