The story goes that Aaron Paul’s character on Breaking Bad was destined to meet a grisly end in the ninth episode of the first season. But the 2007 WGA strike got in the way, cutting off production at seven episodes (six of an intended eight after the pilot). In the intervening time between seasons, Vince Gilligan changed his mind…Though the story makes for great dinner-party fodder, it has been blown far out of proportion. Gilligan and the actors like to trump it up as a great joke on a panel, but the fact is that Gilligan and his writers knew that Paul was too good, and was becoming too integral a parallel to Walter White to be discarded as an emotionally significant loss to signal a paradigm shift in the protagonist’s story. (Via)
In other words, Gilligan knew he wasn’t going to kill Pinkman; the strike just confirmed it. Still, in a sense, Breaking Bad was greatly helped by the strike (which also lead to the creation of Childrens Hospital and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), but let’s take a look at some great shows that weren’t so lucky.
1. Battlestar Galactica
The anger people feel about the Lost finale is the rage I have for a lot of the final season of Battlestar Galactica. It’s rushed, confusing, and a major creative tumble for a show that was one of TV’s best. The strike is at least partially to blame. Season four’s “Sometimes a Great Notion” was the last episode turned in before the picketing, and because the writers knew there was a chance they might never return to the show, it was written as something of a series finale. (Edward James Olmos assumed as much, telling the cast and crew, “This is the end, I think we all feel that. They’re not going to bring the show back. They’ll pull the sets down. We’ll never shoot another episode.”) Other reports, however, claim “Revelations,” the episode preceding “Sometimes,” was the true too-early finale. Either way, the show would have gone out with a boom or a rotting Earth, and that’s not what creator Ronald D. Moore wanted. He claims the strike actually helped the show, giving the writers enough time to rewrite the final batch of episodes, but considering they did pretty well working on a normal production cycle, I’d disagree — the second half of season four, essentially a reset on everything that happened in the first half, feels pinched and overcooked. It’s like an unnecessary coda to a work that didn’t need further explanation.
2. Pushing Daisies
It was remarkable that Pushing Daisies even made it to air in the first place. When stripped down to its gooey, blueberry core, it was basically a show about a necrophiliac who makes pies. It was never going to be a massive hit, but the strike certainly did it no favors. A planned 22-episode first season was shortened to only 9, and by the second season premiere, it had been 10 months since the last new episode. Needless to say, ratings quickly plummeted after a promising start (nearly 13 million Chi McBride fans watched the pilot) and a gone-too-soon cult classic was born. Pushing Daisies wasn’t a show meant to last five, six seasons, but ABC should have at least given Bryan Fuller the time for a satisfying narrative conclusion. Oh well, they’re loss: NO HANNIBAL FOR THEM.
3. Saturday Night Live
Saturday TV Funhouse was always one of the more consistently great things about SNL in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Robert Smigel’s demented mind gave us the Ambiguously Gay Duo, “Ray of Light,” “The Religetables,” and a personal favorite, “Titey.” But after the Strike came and went, Lorne Michaels had to cut the show’s budget, and out went TV Funhouse. The rising popularity of the the Lonely Island’s Digital Shorts didn’t help, either.
With all due respect to Eliza Coupe, Scrubs should have ended long before it got to its ninth season. That was the plan, too; Bill Lawrence was ready to say goodbye to Sacred Heart after season seven, but you guessed it, the strike happened and only 11 episodes were aired. Scrubs hopped over to ABC in 2009, and largely sputtered until its emotionally devastating finale…and then it went on for another year. Combine seasons seven and eight into a 22-episode block and you’ve got something special. Instead, we got Dave Franco. Again, sorry, Eliza.
Everything Dustin said, plus Garret Dillahunt as a Russian mobster. One show that was greatly improved by the strike: