THE WRITERS strike that ended in February knocked TV casts and crews out of work for three months, interrupted the normal flow of the season and took a heavy toll on network ratings.

So it might seem natural to assume that the strike would also rattle the prime-time Emmy nominations, set to be announced July 17.

After all, the strike-related shutdown last November came just a few months after cable networks had one of their best summers ever, with acclaimed fare such as AMC's "Mad Men" and FX's "Damages."

So won't the drop-off in broadcast series translate into an Emmy bonanza for all those basic cable shows that were able to finish their full seasons? Greater proportion of cable fare means more cable stuff to nominate, right?

Well, not so fast.

Although anything could happen in this crazy TV season, industry insiders say they expect the strike to have at most only a mild effect on the Emmy process.

That's because as devastating as the strike was to the networks and ordinary workers, most shows were able, by the end of the season, to squeeze out a surprisingly large number of episodes.

Take, for example, NBC's "30 Rock," last year's comedy winner. The show completed 15 episodes this season, only six fewer than last year.

After the strike was over, comedies generally got back into the swing more quickly than dramas but even one-hour programs finished the season with respectable episode tallies. ABC's "Ugly Betty," whose star America Ferrera scored an Emmy win last year, polished off 18 episodes, compared with 23 last season. CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which normally makes 24 episodes per season, managed to complete 17.

According to Emmy rules, producers of comedies and dramas must have produced at least six episodes to be eligible for consideration in the series award categories.

But that's a hurdle almost any show can clear -- even CBS' on-again, off-again drama "Jericho," aired seven episodes before sliding toward permanent oblivion this spring.

In a statement, the TV academy said there had been no drop-off in entries this year. "The size of the field has not been impacted by the strike."

None of this necessarily means, however, that the strike will have zero effect. Fox's counter-terrorism drama "24," which took the 2006 drama series category, was forced to delay its seventh season until next year and therefore won't be eligible for the current Emmys.

And certain new series may be adversely affected, if only because they were struggling to build awareness just as talks between the writers and studios broke down last fall.

"New shows which might have been natural Emmy bait, like 'Pushing Daisies' or 'Samantha Who?,' might get left behind since they will suffer from the 'out of sight, out of mind' syndrome," said one studio executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities involved.

But even that view amounts only to a conjecture rather than a certainty.

"Like everything else," this executive said, "it's going to be a weird year for the Emmys."


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