If you haven't seen the pilot of "The Big Bang Theory," where the heck have you been? It's being repeated tonight at 7:30 on Ch. 2 for, what, about the 11th time?

OK, 11 is a bit of an exaggeration, but it has been on at least four times, counting tonight. Which is what happens when you've got only eight episodes of a new show and you've tried to spread them out over nearly 3 1/2 months.

This is, of course, the result of the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America. Which forced a shutdown on the production of "Big Bang Theory" pretty much the moment the strike began.

The writers' strike means no new scripts for any TV show. Some series had scripts completed at the time the strike began, and they were able to shoot episodes with those scripts.

But for a sitcom such as "Big Bang Theory," things work a little differently. The writing doesn't end before the episode is filmed.

To overgeneralize a bit, the actors, director and crew of an hourlong drama get the script from the writers/producers and go film it. The script is a finished product when shooting begins.

On the other hand, the script for a sitcom remains a work in progress until filming is finished. Actors sit around a table and read their lines (thus the term "table read") when the work week begins; jokes that don't work are rewritten. That continues during rehearsals.

On the night a sitcom episode is filmed, writers are on set as the studio audience watches the performance. If a line doesn't work, the writers huddle up and write a new one.

Which is why sitcoms such as "Big Bang Theory" went out of production so quickly when the WGA strike began.

There is good news for "Big Bang Theory" fans, however. Even if no more episodes are produced in this abbreviated first season, the show has already been picked up for a second season.

Assuming, of course, that the strike actually ends at some point and TV shows go back into production.

CBS HAS ALSO promised a second season to "Moonlight," the vampire drama that produced a dozen episodes before the strike hit.

(Two remain unaired — they're scheduled for Friday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 18.)

JUST A COUPLE of weeks ago, I wrote with confidence that because "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" both rely almost entirely on scripted material ... there's no way for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to return to work until the strike is over.

So, yes, I was rather surprised when Comedy Central announced that both shows will return — without writing staffs — on Monday, Jan. 7.

You can sort of see how Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel can do it. They'll do lots of interviews.

But while both Stewart and Colbert do interview segments, neither show is about that. And, thus, they can't possibly be the same shows when they return next week.

I write that with confidence ...

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