Cops Season 1 - 1989

Before the streaming era, you had to tune in when those shows actually aired in order to keep up with them. That’s obviously not the case anymore, so this buzzy show would have to be something with an interesting hook beyond that. And not to spoil the premise of our own thought experiment, but another hit from the 2007 strike might give us a clue of where to look: Someone who shall not be named (trashy reality mogul Mark Burnett!) launched The Apprentice in 2004, several years before the strike, but early 2008 saw the premiere of the Celebrity Apprentice spin-off.


Without writers telling them what to do or say, our nation’s celebrities will be helpless. We saw what happened early in the pandemic when they were left with nothing to do for an extended period of time, we don’t need another “Imagine” video. So why not toss some celebrities into a reality show? Maybe one that already had a handful of celebrities when it premiered in the U.S. earlier this year, and the celebrities were the best part of the cast, and having more/better celebrities will make the show better? We’re talking about The Traitors, which seems well-poised to take full advantage of what will probably be a larger appetite for unscripted content from the networks and streamers.

The Peacock series is based on a British series (which was based on a Dutch series), and it’s essentially Survivor crossed with a social deduction game like Mafia. Three of the contestants are designated as “Traitors,” and their job is to undermine everyone else during prize competitions without getting caught. Every episode, the Traitors will “kill” one of the other competitors, and then the surviving competitors will vote on who they think one of the Traitors is. If they’re right, one of the Traitors gets booted, if they’re wrong, somebody gets mad because everyone was unjustly suspicious of them.


The American version on Peacock added another little twist that is relevant for our purposes here: Half of the cast members were normal people, and the other half were reality show veterans and other celebrities of that level (like Ryan Lochte). If Peacock can get 20 celebrities who otherwise wouldn’t be working because of the strike, throw them in the Traitors mansion with host Alan Cumming, and then just sit back and watch them eat each other in a desperate attempt to suss out the werewolves (Werewolf is a variant of the game Mafia), then it might have a nice big hit that justifies running for a long time.

The Traitors | Most SAVAGE Moments

The celebrities could play “roles,” a thing they like to do when scripts are involved, and viewers would still get the joy of seeing famous people on their TVs—which may become an increasingly rare occasion if the studios don’t cave in to the writers’ demands and this potential strike drags on.

But even if we’re right, the L.A. Times article points out that reality TV isn’t the dirt-cheap, schedule-filler that it used to be, especially in light of the issues raised by the WGA ahead of this potential strike. Producers working on unscripted TV have argued that they’re storytellers just like writers are, since they’re crafting narratives with the footage they capture. That could be another fight Hollywood is going to have someday, so maybe reality TV won’t be the solution to replacing scripted television.

So ... maybe it will be sports? They’d need some new sports to replace so many regular TV shows, which might be difficult (there are only so many different shapes for a ball), but we have a sure-fire way to guarantee that all of these new sports will capture an audience: Put some celebrities in there! Make them fight! Everybody will watch that.