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ABC's Fall 2023 Slate Is Bleak With No New Scripted Programs

As soon as the Writers Guild of American picked up their wry signs and started striking, audiences everywhere knew that their favorite shows would be impacted while studios and the guild remain at an impasse. In response, ABC has made the bold move to... basically get rid of scripted content until further notice.

According to a report in Variety, all of ABC's scripted series are missing from the fall schedule, aside from reruns of their hit comedy "Abbott Elementary." This means that popular shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "The Rookie," "The Good Doctor," and "The Conners" won't premiere in the fall like they usually do — instead, they'll get punted in favor of unscripted fare like "Dancing With the Stars." Perhaps most conspicuous is a new "Bachelor" spin-off titled "The Golden Bachelor," which is just "The Bachelor," but older.

Variety also reports that ABC, in its scramble to figure out exactly what to air while production on shows like "Abbott Elementary" are halted due to the strike, almost attempted to snag some Disney+ originals and air those, but executives didn't go for the idea for a number of reasons. In any case, if you're looking for entertainment on ABC this fall, you'll have to make do with "Bachelor in Paradise" and the hidden-camera show "What Would You Do?"

What does the WGA want from studios, and why are they striking?

The WGA hasn't gone on strike since they marched the picket lines from 2007-2008, and a decade and a half later, they're presenting a list of demands to studios that seem pretty reasonable at face value. The advent of "mini-rooms" has led to a serious lack of opportunities for fledgling writers trying to get a foothold in the industry, as these smaller rooms (which cost studios less money) are typically staffed with higher-ranking writers, producers, and showrunners. The advent of streaming has also created a situation where writers who once got residuals when a show went into syndication or sold physical copies of its seasons aren't compensated if a show is wildly successful; another issue is the rise of artificial intelligence, with the WGA asking for assurances that studios wouldn't try and utilize the technology to replace writers. When studios demurred and said they weren't willing to rule it out, it only intensified backlash from writers vying for equal pay.

Several writers have spoken out about how little they're paid while studio executives make solid money from their work. A recent anonymous account in The Cut by someone who's worked on hit comedies revealed that the writer is on food stamps and walks dogs as a side hustle to be able to make rent, and a writer on "The Bear" says he attended the WGA's most recent awards ceremony, where the show won an award, with a negative bank balance and in borrowed clothing.

What does this mean for content as the strike continues?

The fact that ABC is willing to simply strike its scripted shows until further notice is, when all is said and done, not a great sign of things to come. Neither the studios nor the WGA show much sign of budging at this juncture, despite the fact that the strike is costing an estimated $30 million a day and directly affecting California's economy.

Variety noted that the mindset of ABC executives is to provide content described as "strike-proof," and though the two sides will, presumably, have to reach some sort of agreement eventually, it's sobering to realize that audiences could be mired in a soulless wasteland of dating and game shows until that comes to pass. As long as the writers continue to strike, it's not impossible that other studios and networks will follow suit — and in an age where television feels like it's better than ever, it's troubling to think that beloved scripted shows might not air for quite some time.