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WRITERS GUILD VOTES TO RETURN TO WORK TODAY

The decision will allow a number of hit TV series to return with new shows this spring.

Striking Hollywood writers are going back to work today.

The Writers Guild of America said its members voted Tuesday to end their three-month strike that brought the entertainment industry to a standstill.

The strike's end will allow many hit series to return this spring for what's left of the current season, airing anywhere from four to seven new episodes. Shows with marginal audience numbers may not return until fall or could be canceled.

The count was overwhelmingly in favor of ending the strike: 3,492 voted yes, with only 283 voting to stay off the job.

The proposed contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers secures writers a share of compensation for Internet-delivered TV shows and movies. A separate vote is being taken on ratifying it.

In programming news:

-Saturday Night Live joined the list of shows announcing returns. SNL, the only late-night show completely shelved by the strike, plans to come back Feb. 23 if the writers ratify the contract agreement.

-FX announced a premiere date for an abbreviated second season of The Riches. The show about a family of con artists, starring Emmy nominee Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard, returns March 18. The Riches completed seven episodes before the strike started, and rather than restart production when the strike ends, the network opted to shorten the season. FX is employing a similar strategy with another second-year series, Dirt, which begins a seven-episode run March 2.

-The handful of new and returning series that made it on the air last week had less-than-stellar ratings performances, according to Nielsen Media Research. The debut of Lipstick Jungle, NBC's version of a next-generation Sex and the City, was seen by 7.5-million people, ranking No. 41 for the week. It was better than ABC's airing of its similar series Cashmere Mafia, which had 5.2-million viewers.

-CBS premiered a new comedy, Welcome to the Captain, to an audience of 7.9-million. The start of a new season for the Emmy-winning The New Adventures of Old Christine did better, with 9.4-million viewers. The launch of a 16th edition of CBS's Survivor landed in the top 10, yet its 14-million viewers were the smallest audience for the opening of any of those competitions.

Also Tuesday, Academy Awards producer Gil Cates gathered his troops to talk about putting on the 80th Oscar show in less than two weeks.

Information from the Associated Press and Zap2it.com was used in this report.

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