David McNew, Getty Images
Strike writers look on as West Coast leaders of the Writers Guild of America talk about the tentative deal with Hollywood studios.

About a month ago, a TV fan asked me if the striking writers "are thinking about the viewers/fans' thoughts and concerns at all?"

To which my too-brief response was that that's a question that should have been asked of the studios and producers.

The strike didn't seem fair to viewers who are so invested in the shows they love. But consider how unfair all of this was to the writers who create those shows.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a newspaper writer is on the side of the TV writers. But not just because of a feeling of solidarity.

A big part of what this fight was about was revenue from shows seen online. Even if consumers were paying to see those shows, writers received nothing.

At the risk of hugely oversimplifying matters, the heads of the media conglomerates on one side of this battle told stockholders they stand to make piles of money from online distribution, but they didn't want to share one penny of that with writers.

The writers got concessions, but they didn't "win." Under terms of the proposed contract, producers and networks won't have to pay writers during a 17- to 24-day period when their work first goes online. Even if the studios are getting paid by consumers, they still consider it a "promotional" period.

Writers will get a maximum $1,200 fee for streamed programs in the deal's first two years and then get a percentage of a distributor's gross in the third year.

At least it establishes that writers will get paid for online distribution.

As WGA leadership said in an e-mail sent to members, the "ongoing struggle against seven, multinational media conglomerates, no matter how successful, is exhausting, taking an enormous personal toll on our members and countless others. As such, we believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike."

WE'RE NOT OUT of the woods yet. The actors' contract expires in June.

Hopefully, the (apparent) WGA settlement will set a pattern the actors will follow.

WHAT'S NEXT? If, as expected, members of the Writers Guild of America vote to accept the tentative contract proposal — the votes should be counted today — the 14-week walkout will be over. And TV shows can go back into production.

Some will. Some won't. Some, like "Journeyman," haven't just run out of episodes, they've been canceled.

(There are some out there still beating the drum for that ratings failure, but they ought to be playing a funeral dirge.)

It will be a while before new episodes can make their way onto the schedules.

Some show will go back into production and new episodes will air in the coming weeks. Others won't be seen again this season, but new episodes will be on the networks' fall schedule.

At this point, network programmers don't know what they're going to do. They've got to figure out how many episodes studios can give them and how quickly.

What follows is sort of best-guess conjecture, given that nobody knows exactly what's going to happen at this point:

ABC: It looks like "Brothers & Sisters," "Desperate Housewives," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," "Samantha Who?" and "Ugly Betty" (which have all been renewed for next season) will go back into production ASAP. Some episodes will air this season; others may be held until fall.

• "Lost" (also renewed for next season) is also going back to work. When the eight unfinished episodes planned for this season will be seen is unknown.

• "Pushing Daisies" (renewed for next season) will probably go back into production but may not return to the schedule until the fall.

• Both "Brothers & Sisters" and "Boston Legal" had new episodes this week; they've each got another next week.

• New episodes of "October Road" continue to air. "Men in Trees" returns on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

CBS: "The Big Bang Theory," "Criminal Minds," "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: NY," "How I Met Your Mother," "NCIS" and "Two and a Half Men" are expected to go back into production and return to the schedule with new episodes this season.

• "Cold Case," "Ghost Whisperer," "Numb3rs," "Shark" and "Without a Trace" are expected to go back to work and may or may not return this season.

• CBS also has new episodes of "Jericho," "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Welcome to the Captain" on it schedule now.

THE CW: "Everybody Hates Chris," "Gossip Girl," "Smallville" and "Supernatural" are expected to go back into production and air new episodes this season. (Some episodes may be held for fall.)

• New episodes of "One Tree Hill," "Smallville" and "Supernatural" are currently airing.

• The CW has some original episodes of several series that will show up in the next few weeks, including "Aliens in America," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Reaper." (The fate of "Reaper" is up in the air.)

FOX: It's certain that "24" will go back into production, but it looks like the new season won't debut until January 2009.

• "House" may not immediately return to production, but it definitely will be back in the fall. Things are also uncertain for "Bones" and "Prison Break."

• Fox has unaired episodes of "Back to You," "'Til Death" and "Bones" coming between now and April.

• Fox has several episodes of several midseason shows. "Unhitched" debuts on March 2; "New Amsterdam" on March 4; "The Return of Jezebel James" on March 14; and "Canterbury's Law" on April 14.

NBC: "ER," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU," "My Name Is Earl," "The Office" and "30 Rock" are expected to go back into production. All will apparently air new episodes this season; some may be held for the fall.

(This may be the final season for "ER," so that's another complication.)

• "Chuck" and "Life" will probably also go back to work but may not return to the air until the fall.

• "Heroes" will return in the fall but may not air any new episodes until then.

• The fate of "Friday Night Lights" is undetermined.

• New episodes of "Las Vegas," "Lipstick Jungle," "Medium" and "Law & Order" are currently airing.

• The midseason show "quarterlife" is set to debut on Feb. 26.

• "Scrubs" also has new episodes already completed that will air this season. This is the show's final season, but whether the series finale will ever be produced is up in the air.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com