Okay, so for all of you who keep asking me about the show, I have scoop. Yes, Notes From the Underbelly is coming back to ABC. You might even have already seen some ads, but in case you haven’t, the season premiere will be on Monday, November 26th at 9:30 pm. It’s funny, before the show existed, I never gave much thought to timeslots or counter programming, to lead-ins or half-hour companion shows. I didn’t care about ratings or demographics, or what night Fox was planning to air American Idol. I just watched what was on my Tivo, a regular viewer blissfully ignorant with respect to the ins and outs of television programming. But now that I have a vested interest, suddenly it all seems so fascinating. And so whether you care or not, I’m going to take this opportunity to subject you to all that I’ve learned, if for no other reason than because it is all I’ve been talking about lately, and there really isn’t anything else that I feel like writing about today.
So, that being said, we got a great timeslot. We’re on right after Christina Applegate’s new show, Samantha Who?, which is the number one new comedy on television, and also really compatible with Notes. Even better, the night of the premiere is also the season finale of Dancing with the Stars, from 8:00 to 9:00. It’s the polar opposite of last year’s situation, when the show premiered in April, changed time slots twice, was paired with According to Jim, and only aired for a few weeks. And hopefully, all of this will combine to bring the show some more attention than it got last season.
But of course, nothing is ever simple in tv land, and this time around, the wrench being thrown isn’t changing timeslots or pushed back premiere dates, but rather, a labor dispute. As in, the writers are on strike, which puts a whole new set of variables into place. Now, as a novelist, I’m not a member of the Writer’s Guild, and so the outcome of the strike doesn’t affect what I will make or not make on books I sell in the future. But as a novelist who wrote a book on which a current television show is based, the strike does affect me. I, like everyone else involved with the show, only get paid if episodes are produced, and as long as the writers aren’t writing, there won’t be any new episodes produced. So without getting into a debate about which side is right or wrong – without even laying out the positions of each side – I’ll just say that I support what the writers are trying to do, but I also hope that the matter is resolved fairly quickly, so that the actors and the cameramen and the wardrobe people and the production assistants and the key grips and the editors and everyone else who is worried about how they’re going to pay their bills and buy Christmas presents for their kids, can get back to work.
But now, back to the show. It turns out that all of the finagling of last season left us in a pretty good position, actually, with regard to the strike. Because ABC only aired half of the thirteen episodes they ordered from last year, we still have the other half left for this season, plus another ten episodes that have been produced, or are in the process of being produced right now. This means that unlike some other shows, which will run out of new episodes in a few weeks, we’ve got almost an entire, full season in the can. The bad news is that Samantha Who?, our fantastic companion/lead-in show, does not. According to people I’ve talked to, they have enough new episodes to get us through about a month, and then Notes will be on its own. Maybe ABC will run Samantha Who? repeats, or maybe they’ll run Christmas specials, or maybe they’ll move our time slot around again – I have no idea – but I do know that the situation is less than ideal for a fledgling show trying to find an audience, which once again brings me back to the hope that the strike gets resolved quickly.
And that right there is pretty much all that I know. Well, no, I know one other thing, too. The only way the show can be successful is if people watch it, so I hope you’ll watch it, and I hope you’ll tell all of your friends and neighbors and acquaintances and random strangers you meet on the street to watch it, too. And just FYI, if the strike does happen to drag on and the show does run out of episodes, you could always read the book.
For a historic look this sit-com saga, read "And So It Airs: Part One " and "And So It Airs: Part Two ."