Strike would spell big trouble for TV

Assessing the fallout of another work stoppage

Two of the biggest victims of the WGA strike -- the Television Critics Assn. press tour and the Beverly Hilton hotel -- might be among the first to face a fallout from a potential SAG strike.

In December, the winter TCA press tour at the Universal Hilton became the first major event to be canceled as a result of the writers strike. It was followed by the Golden Globes, whose last-minute cancellation dealt a financial blow to the Beverly Hilton, where the awards show has taken place for the past 34 years.

Now, the Beverly Hilton is slated to host the summer TCA press tour from July 8-22.

To protect itself from losing revenue during the height of the tourist season, the hotel has asked networks that are participating to sign their contacts by today.

The contracts apparently include a 30% kill fee "if participation is canceled due to a SAG strike." Also charging a 30% fee is equipment rental company SenovvA if networks cancel "on or after July 1," the day after SAG's current deal with the studios expires. Additionally, cable networks are said to be irked by a cancellation-fee request from CTAM, the organization that handles the cable portion of the press tour.

While it took TCA a month after the beginning of the WGA strike to call off its winter press tour while considering alternative ways of doing a strike-impacted version of it, the association already has made a decision to cancel the July tour and the TCA Awards in the event of a strike, TCA president Dave Walker said.

"Planning is ongoing," he said. "Obviously the situation in January applies in July, and if there's a strike, there won't be a tour. We don't have any contingency plans this time to do a strike tour."

On the series production side, it is ironic that "24" -- the show most impacted by the writers strike as its seventh season was scrapped by Fox -- is the best prepared to weather a SAG strike. With 12 episodes already in the can and the two-hour prequel set to wrap production by month's end, "24" is certain to air a full season.

In another reversal of fortune, multicamera sitcoms that were the first primetime series to go dark immediately after the beginning of the writers walkout are among the most strike-proof. Some of them, including Fox's " 'Til Death" and CBS' "Rules of Engagement" and "Project Gary," are under AFTRA's jurisdiction.

AFTRA also unionizes all actors on daytime dramas as well as such primetime series as HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Flight of the Conchords," the CW's "Reaper" and CBS' "Harper's Island."

AFTRA reached a tentative agreement with the studios, but results of the ratification vote from its membership are not expected until July 9. But even if that deal is approved by AFTRA members despite appeals to the contrary from the SAG leadership, many wonder whether pressure from SAG would allow AFTRA actors to perform their duties during a SAG strike.

About two dozen broadcast series -- including "Heroes," "House," "Bones," "My Name Is Earl," "ER," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "CSI: NY," "Criminal Minds," "Brothers & Sisters," "Chuck," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Life" -- will have episodes in the can by July 1 as some stayed in continuous production or resumed shooting quickly because of the fallout of the writers strike. But there will be no finished product of such heavyweights as "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "CSI: Miami" and "The Office," prompting speculation that networks might consider pushing the start of the 2008-09 season if there is a long SAG strike.

Cable series whose shooting schedules would be disrupted include USA's "The Starter Wife," "Monk," "Psych," "Burn Notice" and "Law & Order: CI," HBO's "Big Love," "Entourage" and "True Blood" and Showtime's "Weeds," "Brotherhood," "Dexter" and "Californication."

Late-night shows, which were hard hit by the writers strike, won't be affected much beyond talent booking, with Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" in best position because they rarely have actors as guests.

Most broadcast pilots, whose production was delayed until after the upfronts, are expected to wrap production by month's end.

Meanwhile, Media Rights Capital, which got a waiver during the WGA strike, is close to getting one for a potential SAG strike, clearing the path to production of its new shows, including the Sunday block on the CW and "Rita Rocks" for Lifetime.

James Hibberd and Kimberly Nordyke in Los Angeles and Paul J. Gough in New York contributed to this report.
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