NBC's midseason cancellation: TCA

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The Television Critics Assn.'s winter press tour could be the next casualty of the writers strike.

NBC has become the first network to pull out of TCA's annual showcase of midseason series.

Faced with the possibility of a boycott by creators, showrunners and stars if the writers strike stretches into January, the networks and TCA have been mulling how to proceed with the glitzy gathering that includes all-day panel sessions and nightly parties.

On Monday, several TCA board members and president Dave Walker discussed the issue with the networks.

"NBC's out, but other broadcast networks are keeping their options open while expressing varying levels of uncertainty about staging effective tour presentations if the WGA strike isn't settled by January," Walker wrote in an e-mail sent to TCA members Tuesday. "The TCA is working on two possible footprints for the January tour -- one for a strike tour organized around presentation days and nights by cable and PBS, who are the only firm commitments at this point, the other to quickly execute in case the strike ends before January."

An NBC spokeswoman said it was "a difficult decision" to scrap the network's presentation at the winter press tour.

"These are challenging times due to the strike," she said. "We felt it was not prudent to move forward with a TCA session."

As of Tuesday night, the other broadcast networks had not made a final decision whether to participate in the press tour, according to their reps. If broadcast networks opt to present at TCA as the strike continues, a lot of the shows they tout would be unscripted series.

Even before the announcement of NBC's pullout, TCA said that 40-50 non-Los Angeles-based members had been planning to attend TCA during a writers strike. That's down from the typical 60-70 visiting critics and reporters.

TCA called that turnout "substantial nonetheless" and said it would "continue to plan a tour around cable and PBS." (However, the cable portion may go down from four days to three, Jan. 9-11.) TCA also is looking to do a strike-themed panel on PBS' second day, Jan. 13.

If the strike ends before the press tour, TCA is thinking of expanding it at both ends and is looking to accommodate any participation by the broadcast networks at the Hilton in Universal City, where the tour is set, or on their lots.
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