How Writers' Strike 1988 Cut TV Shows Short
Although many of the hit series in the 1987/1988 season had already had all of their scripts written by the time the writers' strike began, some shows like "Moonlighting," "The Cosby Show," L.A.Law," "Cheers" and "Thritysomething" were brought to an abrupt end.
In 1988 that meant a total of 24 (instead of 26) episodes of "The Cosby Show"; 20 (instead of 22) episodes of "L.A. Law"; 25 (instead of 26) episodes of "Cheers"; and 21 (instead of 24) episodes of "Thirtysomething."
"Moonlighting" was always plagued with production delays. In the 1986/1987 season the Cybill Shephard and Bruce Willis-fronted romantic dramedy produced only 15 episodes, so a total of mere 14 episodes in the strike-affected 1987/1988 season was not a significant setback.
Obviously, the TV industry was in a much better position than it is today when the strike occurred in the middle of the 2007/2008 season, possibly cutting the season orders for most of the prime-time dramas and comedies in half.
But the writers' strike in 1988 did cause some additional trouble for producers of the hour-long dramas as, unlike comedies that have self-contained episodes, they weave their story threads from week to week and many were forced to come to an abrupt end.
Harry Hamlin, the star of "L.A. Law" for example barely appears in the final episodes shot, because he was supposed to be featured heavily in the final 2 episodes that didn't get to be written and produced.
As many shows came to an end in late April or early May (some concluded their seasons as early as March) the TV networks began pumping their line-ups with made-for-TV movies and repeats of mini-series, some of which never would have been scheduled had there not been for the strike.