Move over, Hot Labor Summer. It’s time for Sad TV Fall.
Hollywood has been at a standstill for months, as the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA remain on strike over issues including the use of artificial intelligence and streaming residuals. For the most part, the pain has been experienced by people in the industry and other businesses that rely on production. But as we head into a fall TV season conspicuously lacking returning favorites like “Abbott Elementary,” “Chicago Fire,” “Young Sheldon” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” average TV viewers will also start to feel the ripple effects of the historic work stoppage.
As expected, broadcast networks like ABC, CBS and NBC will be hardest hit by the strike because their scripted shows are usually produced with less lead time and usually resume production in the summer months. Without fresh episodes to air in September, they are doing what they have done in the past — leaning into reality programming and game shows. They’ve also padded their lineups with imported shows, including the original British version of “Ghosts,” and series borrowed from within their parent companies (which is why “Yellowstone” reruns will air on CBS this fall).
Late night comedy shows including “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “Saturday Night Live” — which were among the first programs to go dark once the strike commenced in May — are also not expected to return until there is a resolution.
For cable networks and streaming services, which tend to bank programming further in advance, the disruption won’t be as acute — yet — this fall. Still, a number of scripted streaming shows that were already in production also had to shut down, including the Netflix blockbuster “Stranger Things” and the Max comedy series “Hacks.” However, series like HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” continue to be on hiatus, having produced no new shows since May.
Here’s a sampling of what’s coming back — and what’s not — in the months ahead.
The acclaimed ABC sitcom was primed to be the star student of the fall TV season as it headed into its third season. Created by Quinta Brunson, who also stars, the mockumentary comedy follows a group of teachers trying to give their students the education they deserve at an underfunded primary school in West Philadelphia. It became a breakout hit in its first season, with the momentum continuing into its second, racking up a slew of awards in the process, including three Emmys and a Peabody Award. The series — also starring Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Walter, Janelle James and Chris Perfetti — was renewed for a third season in January, but production never began. The show’s writers were set to begin work on the new season the same day the WGA strike started. It’s unclear what effect the strike may have on the number of episodes in the third season and whether there will be fewer — Season 1 had 13 and Season 2 had 22.
“The second season ended up talking about charter schools and the push and pull of those, and the first season was sort of about the challenges of being woefully underfunded,” co-showrunner Justin Halpern said in an interview with Decider in April. “And so I think we have an idea, we’ve talked with Quinta, and I think there’s a larger overarching idea that we’ve sort of landed on for Season 3 that I think is really interesting and I’ve never seen it on TV before.”
Things left off with some added tension to the workplace as Janine (Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) finally admitted they have romantic feelings for each other but, ultimately, decided not to pursue a relationship. Brunson has said there’s still more to explore with that story. But she’s careful to stress the show would not shift focus and become a romantic comedy in the process: “Our show isn’t about dating,” she told TV Line. “It’s about this school, it’s about the kids, etc. So Janine and Gregory are not the No. 1 story line of ‘Abbott.’”
‘House of the Dragon’
The first season of the “Game of Thrones” prequel was a major hit for HBO in 2022 and marked a much-needed win for its financially strapped corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery. In good news for fans and shareholders alike, the return of the fantasy series about the Targaryen dynasty is unlikely to be delayed by the dual strikes that have ground Hollywood to a halt. According to author George R.R. Martin, scripts for Season 2 were completed before production began in April at Leavesden Studios in the U.K. And most “Dragon” cast members are working under a contract with the British performers union, Equity, rather than SAG-AFTRA. Although Equity has formally expressed its support for the work stoppage, members are not legally entitled to strike in solidarity with their American peers, thanks to strict labor laws in the U.K.
“These strikes are not really about name writers or producers or showrunners, most of whom are fine; we’re striking for the entry-level writers, the story editors, the students hoping to break in, the actor who has four lines, the guy working his first staff job who dreams of creating his own show one day, as I did back in the ’80s,” Martin wrote in a blog post in July.
‘Saturday Night Live’
In nearly five decades on the air, “Saturday Night Live” has endured numerous calamities that might have ended a lesser show: COVID-19, Sept. 11, the time Elon Musk hosted. At a moment when the NBC comedy institution was already in rebuilding mode, thanks to a recent mass exodus of long-running cast members, the work stoppages will only add to the creative challenges ahead. Season 48 ended three weeks early when the WGA went on strike in May — depriving fans of episodes hosted by Pete Davidson, Kieran Culkin and Jennifer Coolidge. As for Season 49, who knows? New “SNL” cast members are usually announced near the end of summer, while the show itself typically returns in late September or early October, but “SNL” is unlikely to return to the air with new episodes until the strikes have been resolved.
‘Law & Order’ and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’
Anyone dying to hear the telltale “dun dun” sound of Dick Wolf’s procedurals is going to have to wait awhile for fresh episodes. NBC originally planned to air “Law & Order,” which returned to the network last year after a decadelong hiatus, and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the spinoff that has since become the longest running live-action scripted drama in American TV history, in a Thursday night block. (“Law & Order: Organized Crime,” the “SVU” spinoff starring Christopher Meloni, was slated to return at midseason.)
But production on the new seasons of “SVU” and “Law & Order” had not yet begun when the WGA went on strike in May, nor had any scripts been completed at the time. “SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, known for playing Olivia Benson in the series, has thrown her support behind both strikes, appearing on the picket lines in New York City on behalf of SAG-AFTRA and the WGA. “I’m so honored to stand here in solidarity with the writers, wearing my WGA captain hat. And I’ve been your captain for 25 years on ‘SVU’ and I could not have done it without the writers,” she said in May, according to Variety.
Neither show is expected to return until the strikes are resolved. In the meantime, “Law & Order” fans will have to rely on reruns — readily available on streaming and cable — if they want a quick fix of ripped-from-the-headlines drama.
The doctors won’t be in for some time. The long-running series, created by Shonda Rhimes, was set to begin a landmark 20th season this fall, extending its record as the longest-running prime-time medical drama, with a new showrunner, Meg Marinis, taking over from Krista Vernoff. And the new season has built-in curiosity over how the series would handle Ellen Pompeo, who plays the show’s namesake Meredith Grey, taking on a reduced role.
“I will be making some appearances hopefully next year, if I can find some time,” Pompeo said in June during a Variety interview. “We’ve got an interesting story to tell.”
While the transformative 19th season also saw the departure of Kelly McCreary, who played Grey’s sister Maggie, it introduced a crop of main characters: Harry Shum Jr., Adelaide Kane, Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho and Midori Francis.
Since its debut in October 2021, “Ghosts” has been a breakout hit on CBS. Adapted from a British supernatural comedy of the same name, the series follows Samantha (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) as the couple operate a country bed-and-breakfast that’s haunted by several ghosts, whom only Samantha can see. While the third season of the U.S. version of “Ghosts” will not roll out in 2023, CBS has announced plans to air repeats on Thursdays following “Young Sheldon.” The network will also air the original British version of the comedy at 9 p.m. ET, starting Nov. 16.
Paramount Network’s tentpole series has already kept fans waiting. The first half of Season 5 premiered last November and the remaining episodes of the season were expected to be released over the summer. But production on the series was mired by delays and uncertainty over the future involvement of star Kevin Costner, who plays patriarch John Dutton. After months of speculation, Paramount Network announced that the much-anticipated second half of its fifth season would air in November — and that the show will end its run after those episodes air. (Paramount Network also announced a “Yellowstone” sequel that Matthew McConaughey is set to helm.) But in a July interview, Luke Grimes, who plays Kace Dutton in the series, revealed that filming hadn’t started because of the writer’s strike, so the wait continues. In the meantime, CBS, which shares a parent company with Paramount Network, which has a lack of new scripted programming in its lineup this fall, will feature reruns of the drama, starting with Season 1 in Sunday-night marathons beginning Sept. 17.