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Reality TV to the rescue? Amid writers’ strike, ABC and Fox rely on unscripted shows

The history of television is repeating itself.

The last time members of the Writers Guild of America put down their pens and picked up picket signs, a period that spanned 100 days from 2007 to 2008, prompted a bonanza for reality TV as existing programs and new unscripted filled in the gaps of popular sitcoms and dramas left behind.

This week, amid the current WGA strike, ABC released its upcoming fall schedule and Fox offered a preview of what’s to come with its annual initial pitch, revealing a partial list of shows expected for 2023- 2024 – and it’s clear that both networks intend to rely on unscripted shows to once again mitigate the impact of the strike.

But will it work again?

At Fox, the attempt to make it work means that, while dramas like 9-1-1: Lone Star, The cleaning lady And Alert: Missing Persons Unit are still considered a success at the moment, just like the sitcom animal controland the network’s primetime animated series block, unscripted shows will return across the board. The farmer wants a wife, Hell’s Kitchen, I can see your voice, LEGO Masters, The Masked Singer, Name this melody, Senior Level Leader And Special forces: the toughest test in the world all have another season.

Fox also announced a new musical game show called We are a family, hosted by Jamie Foxx and his daughter, Corinne Foxx. But that wasn’t the biggest news from the upfronts. Also joining the network’s reality TV menu is a once-loved show that’s been off the air for nearly a decade – Gordon Ramsay Nightmares in the kitchen.

ABC hopes to keep viewers tuned in by filling its fall schedule with game shows, including celebrity hazard, celebrity wheel of fortune, Tap your luck And The $1,000,000 Pyramid. Judge Steve Harvey, America’s Funniest Home Videos and hidden camera series What would you do? are among other unscripted efforts.

Reality TV fans can look forward to new seasons of Bachelor in Paradise And shark tankas well as the return of Dancing with the starswhich spent season 31 on Disney Plus, and the addition of an intriguing new senior love match series, The Golden Bachelor.

But the fall schedule will also feature reruns of one of the networks’ most beloved series, the Emmy darling. Abbott Elementary Schooland at least one writer finds this part of the program very telling when it comes to whether the melee of unscripted shows alongside him can really see this or any other network during the strike.

Eric Haywood, TV writer and WGA (West) board member, posted a copy of ABC’s fall schedule on Twitter on Tuesday evening, noting that he “honestly can’t put it back”.

In following tweetshe explained, “First and foremost, the ‘Abbott Elementary School reps” sticks to me like a sore thumb. I could be wrong, but that seems to make it clear that broadcast networks like ABC couldn’t ditch scripted shows if they wanted to. Because if they wanted to, they would. For me, they showed their luck with this calendar. They KNOW their audiences crave scripted stories. They can’t just remove it entirely. So they’re inserting reruns of their biggest hit into their fall schedule in hopes that their audience won’t completely abandon them.

Haywood believes that without scripted shows, ABC and other traditional networks will remain vulnerable during the strike, giving streaming networks an edge with banks of content to watch on demand.

“With no disrespect to the people who I’m sure will work hard, say, Gold Bachelor or whatever,” he wrote. “But at some point, audiences will probably go looking for scripted stories again. And they won’t find them on ABC. Or NBC. Or CBS. So streamers waiting to devour these legacy companies and/or shut them down have just received fall TV viewership on a silver platter.

All because, as he puts it, the networks “would rather stick with the writers than pay them fairly.”

Haywood doesn’t see reality TV saving the networks day this time. He only sees a fairly negotiated end to the strike as a solution, and he’s sure the network bigwigs will see it too soon enough.

“When these CEOs talk about being ‘we will be well positioned to survive the strike,’ they mean ‘We have hours and hours of America’s Funniest Home Videos on deck,” Haywood added. “And when people decide they’d rather go back and review stranger things that Judge Steve Harvey Or Beverly Hills Racist Puppies or whatever, they’re gonna wonder where it all went wrong.

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