The writers have put down their picket signs and picked up their pencils. Now we'll actually be treated to some prime-time fare that doesn't have stinky mold all over it.
But hang in there for just a little longer. The three-month labor feud made a complete shambles of the TV season, forcing network programmers to pick up the pieces and play catch-up.
Viewers can generally expect new episodes of some of their favorite shows to start rolling out around mid-March to early April. But not every show is coming back. Fox, for example, has postponed "24" until January, and NBC has also sent its "Heroes" to the sidelines.
However, most of the major hits from the fall will return with at least a handful of episodes. But until they do, we figured it's a good time to reassess the strike to see what kind of intel it provided. And so, as a public service, here are the lessons we learned from the writers strike:
1. The network bosses don't care about us
Were Meredith and Derek really done for good on "Grey's Anatomy"? How would Grissom cope without Sara on "CSI"? What would life be like on Wisteria Lane post-tornado? Inquiring minds wanted to know.
But the Hollywood bigwigs basically said "so what?" Displaying a blatant lack of good will, they were determined to drag their heels and make the lowly writers sweat it out no matter what damage it inflicted on the industry -- or how much inconvenience it caused for us.
Clearly, they didn't have our best interests at heart. Please don't tell us you sent them any valentine's cards this week.
2. Awards shows weren't rewarding
What's more boring than a Golden Globes gala full of pompous actors and windy speeches? A Golden Globes gala without pompous actors and windy speeches.
When the writers picketed the Globes, the actors followed suit, and all we were left with were dimwitted talking heads who droned on and on in a telecast that was hollow and dull. Yes, there were some laughs, but they were unintentional, as in Larry King trying to provide lame analysis.
Looking ahead to the Oscars, we have one word: Whew!
3. It's true: Reality bites
We've always been able to take reality TV in moderation. But the strike provided us with a glimpse of what prime time looks like on mindless reality overload and the view wasn't pretty.
"Big Brother" in the winter? Please, no! "Crowned: The Mother of All Beauty Pageants"? Run for your lives! "American Gladiators"? Make it stop. "The Moment of Truth"? Oh lord, does the "truth" hurt.
Of course, even with a full contingent of writers, television often abuses us (See: "Cashmere Mafia"). But the latest outpouring of reality has made us feel like victims of a horrible hazing.
4. Politics can be fun
Then again, this election year has brought with it a brand of reality TV that we've devoured in heaping doses.
Just as prime time was becoming a barren wasteland, Clinton, Obama, McCain, Huckabee and company stepped in to provide the kind of compelling conflict, stunning plot twists and spicy dialogue that few writers could manage. And the audience responded, flocking to televised debates in record numbers and goosing the ratings of the cable news channels.
5. Old habits die hard
Going into the strike, the theory was that viewers would be so desperate for fresh fare, they'd be willing to give other shows a try. That theory was wrong.
Critically acclaimed dramas such as "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights" failed to experience any significant bump in their ratings. Meanwhile, new shows such as "Lipstick Jungle" (7.5 million) and "Welcome to the Captain" (7.9 million) drew lackluster debut ratings, and even the audience for the opening night of "Survivor" (14 million) was the show's lowest ever.
Still, not everyone abandoned TV during the strike. In another incredible drama not penned by any writer, the New York Giants Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots was seen by 97.5 million -- the second-largest audience for any TV program. Ever.
GET WITH THE PROGRAM
Want to know when your favorite show returns? CBS and NBC have officially firmed up their post-strike plans. Meanwhile, the other networks are still hashing things out, so much of this is based on reports and speculation coming out of Hollywood and is subject to change.
("Journeyman" and "Bionic Woman" are expected to be canceled.)
("Big Shots," "Carpoolers" and "Cavemen" are expected to be canceled.)
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