No, despite the rumors, the writers’ strike didn’t change creator Vince Gilligan’s mind about killing off Jesse Pinkman. (Gilligan changed his mind before that, when he saw how great Aaron Paul was in the role.) But the strike, which trimmed the first season from nine episodes to seven, did save another key character: Walter White’s DEA brother-in-law Hank Schrader, who Gilligan considered killing off in Season 1’s ninth episode. Hank, of course, lived on until the show’s final episodes — and went out in a fitting blaze of glory.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
The strike was actually a blessing in disguise for the FNL writing staff, allowing them to hit the reset button on a woefully ill-conceived Season 2. The infamous Landry/Tyra murder cover-up, Lyla becoming a born-again Christian, new team member Santiago… these dead-end storylines and more were chucked out the window when the strike slashed Season 2 down to a mere 15 episodes. Season 3 started with a clean slate — and we never heard about Landry killing a guy again.
The strike kept the Kiefer Sutherland thriller off the air for an entire year, pushing Season 7 to 2009. (Which makes sense, because airing 24 episodes was kind of this show’s thing.) But Fox kept fans engaged during the long layoff with a standalone film, 24: Redemption, which aired in November 2008 and found Sutherland’s Jack Bauer fighting gun-toting rebels in the fictional African country of Sangala.
THE BIG BANG THEORY
The CBS mega-hit sitcom might not have been a mega-hit if the writers’ strike hadn’t happened. Big Bang debuted in the fall of 2007, and as co-creator Bill Prady remembers it, CBS filled the programming void left by the strike by airing Big Bang reruns multiple times, helping the freshman show find an audience. It earned a second-season renewal… and the rest is TV history.
The final season of Syfy’s space epic was threatened by the strike; Season 4’s “Sometimes a Great Notion,” the last episode produced before the strike, was penned as a possible series finale, should the show not return. (Star Edward James Olmos even told his castmates this would be the last episode they’d ever shoot together.) But BSG did return for nine more episodes, and creator Ronald D. Moore has credited the strike with giving him time to formulate a more satisfying ending to the series.
Tina Fey’s NBC sitcom saw its sophomore season cut from 22 episodes to 15 by the strike, but the extra time it gave the writers led to a game-changing idea. During the strike, the 30 Rock cast performed a live version of an episode at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade, and it went so well, it inspired Fey and company to do a live episode on NBC — which they actually did twice, in Seasons 5 and 6.
With the strike chopping Heroes‘ sophomore season down from 24 episodes to just 11, creator Tim Kring had to improvise. The writers had originally envisioned Season 2 as consisting of three “volumes,” or extended story arcs, but just one of those volumes, “Generations,” aired in Season 2. A second, “Villains,” was pushed to Season 3, and a third, “Exodus,” was scrapped altogether. Also, a planned spinoff, Heroes: Origins, never materialized due to the strike.
Like Battlestar Galactica, the Zach Braff-starring doc-com was facing its own mortality as the strike hit: Season 7 was hacked down to just 11 episodes, and NBC even offered creator Bill Lawrence the chance to film an episode that could serve as a series finale, but Lawrence declined. Scrubs did end up returning… but not on NBC. The comedy moved to ABC in the fall of 2008, airing there for two more seasons.
Bryan Fuller’s typically quirky ABC dramedy — Lee Pace starred as a pie baker with the ability to raise people from the dead — was clicking along nicely in the fall of 2007, debuting to nearly 13 million viewers. But the strike threw a wrench into the show’s momentum, capping its freshman season at just nine episodes. By the time it returned for Season 2, it had been off the air for ten months, and audiences didn’t have an appetite for a second slice, leaving the show to, well, push up daisies.
An unfortunate casualty of the strike: closure for fans of this long-running UPN/CW sitcom that starred a pre-black-ish Tracee Ellis Ross. It was midway through its eighth season when the strike hit, and The CW ended up cancelling the show without even giving it a proper series finale, which the network considered too expensive (?!). A planned retrospective was scrapped, too, when the stars reportedly balked at being offered half their usual salaries to participate, so Girlfriends ended on an inconclusive — and sour — note.