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Strike strategy Here are some ways to keep yourself entertained while weathering the walkout by Hollywood's writers

The broadcast and cable networks aren't the only ones who should devise a long-term strategy to deal with the writers' strike. So should you, the viewer who doesn't want to stop being entertained.

Here are some suggestions about how to deal with the diminishing number of scripted episodes that will be available if the first writers' strike in 20 years extends through the early months of 2008.

Of course, implementing some of the suggestions will depend on how big your budget is now.

*It's Showtime: We're talking about the pay-channel here, which has nowhere near the number of subscribers as HBO does. When HBO had "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" and "Deadwood," that made sense.

But now Showtime has more shows that are getting better buzz: "Weeds," "Brotherhood," "Dexter" and "Californication." Hardly anyone here watches any of them. Now is a perfect time for adults to discover if the claims that Showtime is the new HBO are accurate. Try out Showtime for a month or two. It also has family series, movies and everything else you'd expect from a pay service. The broadcast networks won't mind. After all, Showtime is owned by the same company, Viacom, that owns CBS.

Like many cable networks, Showtime also has an On Demand feature that allows subscribers to catch up with all the old episodes of the buzzworthy series.

*Get a DVR or TiVo -- fast: Now that we're in the November sweeps, the networks are running some of the higher-profile episodes of the hit shows. And many hit shows now compete against each other -- like "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI" and "The Office" on Thursday. If you don't have a DVR yet -- and most cable subscribers don't -- get one to record as many episodes in November as possible for future viewing. It will help you get through December, which traditionally carries holiday programming. And it may even help you get through January.

*Get some cable laughs: Comedy Central's "South Park" reportedly isn't affected by the strike and original episodes will be available. Comedy Central also carries a lot of old comedy specials that you may not have seen before. Catch up with them. You might also want to check out Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, which features animated shows aimed at adults. It is always a good time to get a laugh.

*Fall in love with "Friday Night Lights": And "Lost" and "Heroes." Those three shows and others get much more critical attention than viewers. Many viewers also don't want to start watching shows as convoluted as "Lost" and "Heroes" now, because they feel they've missed too much. They are available on DVD -- which is one of the issues in the strike. Go to the local video store to rent them or the big-box store that sells them and feast on the first seasons of all three. It will help you determine if you want to join the fanatics after the strike ends.

*Get educated by PBS: Catch "Frontline," the best documentary series on TV, to better understand how your government works. Watch "Masterpiece Theatre" and some of the British series that were filmed some time ago and won't be affected by the strike. Then, at the next holiday party you go to, you can proudly say "I only watch PBS."

*Learn How to use And and all the network sites where you can watch episodes of prime-time shows on your computer. Since it is a large part of what the strike is about, you should at least understand how to use them.

*Watch Bravo or USA Network: They're owned by the same company that owns NBC, and they have episodes of reality shows and scripted shows ready. If you ever wondered what "Project Runway" is about, now is the time to check out Heidi Klum -- or at least her Bravo show. USA reportedly has new episodes of "Monk" and "Psych" coming in January, too.

*Try a cable show you've always wondered about: Like Animal Planet's "Meerkat Manor." Or the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs," a popular cable show that may make you feel good about your own job.

*Read: Aha, there's a concept. Use the time to remember the day when TV didn't rule your world. Turn the darn thing off and read -- newspapers, books and magazines -- until the strike is over.

*Watch sports: The strike would be much easier to take around here if the Buffalo Sabres were having the kind of season they had in 2006-07. But the Sabres rate better than many prime-time shows here, and viewership should increase with less prime-time competition. Of course, the Bills get much higher ratings, but they're only on once a week. But a Bills playoff run in January sure would help get viewers through the writers' strike.

*Follow the presidential race: Hey, New York State politicians -- Hillary and Rudy -- are now frontrunners to get the nominations for the Democratic and Republican parties. We're still a year away from the election. Catch CNN and Fox News as often as possible. DVR the nightly newscasts, and play them during prime time. In the coming months, things are bound to become more entertaining than any of the countless reality TV shows on the horizon.


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