Analysis / Writers Strike

Looking at the other wiki, it appears there were three major strikes of the writer's guild. 1960, 1988, and the 2007-08 strike.

While the 1988 strike lasted the longest and the 1960 strike lasted the second longest, it would appear based on the dates of the strikes that the 2007-08 strike had the greatest overall impact on the TV industry.

First let's take a look at the dates of each strike according to the other wiki.

1960 - January 16th to June 10th (6 days shy of 5 months) 1988 - March 7th to August 7th (5 months to the day) 2007-08 - November 5th '07 to February 12th '08 (a "mere" 3 months and 5 days)

Looking at pure numbers without context, the dates of the strikes would indicate that the '88 strike was the worst and the '07-'08 strike was "not that bad", but when you put it into the context of the times as well as the specific dates, the worst strike so far was the latest strike.

In 1960, tv shows were longer in season (often 30+ episodes) but still ran in a similar time frame to modern shows (modern as of "the new millennium"). A general time frame for seasons was to start in September of one year and conclude the season in approximately June of the following year. This coincides with a typical school year as well (though that may have nothing to do with anything).

Looking at the dates, the 1960 strike would have had a decent impact on most shows of that year and probably led to many half seasons or canceled shows, but as the tv shows being aired were usually given more leeway on the networks of the time, the impact cannot compare to how a show is cut based on a single episode nowadays. In addition many seasons may have already been written by January (or mostly written) and so the impact would have been far less to the viewers.

The 1988 strike may have had an impact in the industry itself, but the dates reflect a more sensible reasoning by the executives of the day as it was basically the summer reruns time of the year between seasons. Impact on the shows and the people watching those shows would have been negligible. Some shows may have felt "thrown together" initially as the writing may have come to a halt in the time between seasons, but as the writers got back to the grindstone, the shows would have still ended up with full seasons or near full.

The 2007-08 strike on the other hand, had a direct impact on every tv show during that season as it took place during the bulk of the season and therefore would have (and did) cause many shows to be half seasons (at best), less than half seasons, missing seasons, or canceled before air (at worst). There were a few exceptions where some shows saw it coming or perhaps just always wrote early, but for the most part, the 2007-08 tv season of all shows on tv suffered and viewers were left with a slew of shows that felt underwhelming as well as many shows that might have continued if not for the strike.

Different now

A point should also be made that Television has changed a lot since the 1960s. It has changed in volume. In the 60s, you had 3 networks to fill, with maybe 10 shows each that need writers. In the 2000s, you have those networks plus dozens of cable-only channels. All told, you would have well over a hundred different shows that would all be impacted by this ripple.

An even worse problem is the nature of television now as opposed to then. Even in the late 80s, most television series were episodic in nature. While they didn't go to the level of full-on Negative Continuity, Status Quo Is God was the way most shows worked. So if a series had to stop in the middle of a season for an extended period of time, that was more or less OK from a narrative pacing perspective.

That's not how TV works anymore. Most TV shows are arc-based, long-form, and very much not episodic in structure. Missing an episode, common in the 60s, nowadays means being nearly completely lost in most series. And to stop a series on a random episode right in the middle? People are watching to see what happens next; if they're denied that, then they're likely to be a lot less interested when you finally show up. Sure, Cliff Hangers exist, but they're deliberate elements. To stop on a random episode rarely is effective.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Analysis/WritersStrike