BACK TO WORK!

Some 92 percent of Writers Guild of America members who cast ballots in Los Angeles and New York Tuesday voted to end their strike and return to work immediately. They are due to vote again on Feb. 25 on a new three-year contract, and while it is expected that that vote will overwhelmingly be favorable, too, a significant percentage may express their displeasure with the contract and vote no. On industry blogs, several writers have particularly complained about lack of headway on DVD residuals and jurisdiction over animated and reality shows. Moreover, several analysts have predicted that the end result of the strike will be that the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer -- the writers, that is. Entertainment attorney Steven Beer told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times: "Writers got hard-fought and well-earned improvements, but it could be tougher sledding for the rank and file in the future." But Jonathan Handel, a former WGA attorney, told the newspaper that the writers "successfully faced down six multinational media conglomerates and established a beachhead on the Internet. ... That's quite an achievement."

PRODUCERS PREPARE ACCELERATED FILMING

While their strike may have ended, some television writers are discovering that they will have no jobs to return to this week. Some network executives have already replaced scripted shows that were performing marginally and have decided to wait until the fall to resume production of others. Moreover, they have drastically curtailed or written off many new shows that were being developed when the strike began. Nevertheless, today's (Wednesday) New York Times indicated that several producers intended "to push as hard as possible" to turn out additional shows before the end of the season if only to "generate maximum work in a short amount of time" for workers who suffered financial hardship during the strike. The first show to return will probably be NBC's Saturday Night Live. The network announced Tuesday that it will actually live up to its name and be "live" four weeks in a row -- unusual for SNL -- beginning February 23, with Tina Fey hosting the first show and Ellen Page of Juno hosting the second on March 1. Presumably late-night hosts Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel will be reappearing tonight with material from their returned-to-work writers.

FOX DOMINATES WEEK'S RATINGS

Fox captured the top spot in the ratings for last week (for American Idol). Also the No. 2 spot (for the Idol results show). Also the third spot (for House). Also the fifth spot (for Moment of Truth). Combined, those shows gave Fox the highest ratings of the week -- in both households and among adults 18-49. The only other program to sneak into the top ten was CBS's telecast of the Grammy Awards, which produced the second-lowest ratings in its history. (Today's Los Angeles Times observed that it attracted 17.2 million viewers versus 51.67 million at its height in 1984.) Fox finished the week with an average 7.3 rating and a 12 share. CBS placed second with a 6.2/10. ABC took third with a 5.1/8, while NBC trailed with a 4.8/8.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.7/23; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.6/23; 3. House, Fox, 13.5/20; 4. Grammy Awards, CBS, 10.3/16; 5. Moment of Truth, Fox, 9.5/15; 6. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ABC, 8.9/13; 7. Lost, ABC, 8.8/14; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 8.6/14; 9. 20/20 Special Edition: "The Final Hours of Natalee Holloway," ABC, 8.5/14; 10. Survivor: Micronesia, CBS, 8.1/13.

OSCAR GETS A REPRIEVE

The end of the writers' strike will also mean that the Academy Awards show will go on employing producer Gil Cates's Plan A. (A contingency Plan B that would have seen the Oscars show reduced to film clips had also been in the works.) ''Until yesterday, we really had two shows we were preparing,'' Cates told an assemblage of production staff in Hollywood Tuesday. ''I'm very happy the writers' strike came to a close," he said, "This is basically the last push before the big show.''

BIG BROTHER NOT SO BIG IN (WINTER) SEASON DEBUT

Writers may have been enjoying a bit of shadenfreude today (Wednesday) after learning that CBS's decision to bring summer reality series Big Brother back into its lineup in February apeared to fail. Tuesday's first episode drew a lowly third-place 4.3 rating and a 6 share. Of course, it aired opposite a two-hour edition of American Idol that averaged a 17.3/25 overall and an 18.5/27 in the 9:00 p.m. hour opposite Brother.

ARTS DIRECTOR BROWNING DEAD AT 86

Kirk Browning, who directed cultural events in New York on network television from the medium's earliest days to the present, died Sunday of a heart attack in New York at age 86. He began in 1948 when NBC still engaged its own symphony orchestra under the legendary conductor, Arturo Toscanini. In 1951 he directed the NBC presentation of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written for television. He also directed NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame music and drama specials in the '50s. In the '60s, he moved to PBS after commercial television effectively abandoned such cultural programming, and, beginning in 1976, directed 185 telecasts of Live From Lincoln Center. In an obituary headlined, "Put the Arts on TV," the New York Times observed that at the time of his death, Browning was preparing a production of Madame Butterfly scheduled to air on March 20.

Brian B.