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Plan B for TV viewers

DVDs and DVRs are strike-proof.

Now this writers strike is really starting to tick us off.

For a while there, we were in passive denial, clinging to the hope that Hollywood's Hatfields and McCoys would quickly come to their senses and end their nasty little feud.

Obviously, that hasn't happened. Now, a work stoppage that had been mainly affecting late-night television is about to wreak all sorts of havoc with prime time.

Supplies of fresh episodes are running dangerously low, or, in some cases, already have been depleted. And after the holidays, we'll be confronted with drastically revamped network lineups riddled with bizarre new reality series.

Clearly, this calls for drastic measures. And so I've formulized a contingency plan of action that calls for the deployment of assorted strike-proof programming alternatives:

Make time for "The War."

Ken Burns' extraordinary World War II epic debuted in the thick of broadcast TV's fall rollout, so a lot of you undoubtedly took one look at its 15-hour running time and declared, "I'm out." But now, with the decks cleared, there's no excuse. Rent the DVD box set and proceed at your own pace. You'll be richly rewarded with one of the year's most gripping pieces of television.

Take a trip across the pond.

Members of the Writers Guild of America are the ones who have put their pencils down. The Brits, on the other hand, continue to gleefully pump out TV fare, which means it's a great time to check out

Life on Mars

(8 p.m. Tuesdays, BBC America), a funny and imaginative crime procedural about a modern-day cop who, after a near-fatal car crash, wakes up and seems to be living in 1973. Or delve even further back in time with PBS's

Masterpiece Theatre

, which will broadcast adaptations of all six of Jane Austen's novels beginning next month.

Seek out TV's short-lived gems on DVD.

Plenty of great TV shows suffered untimely deaths. If you're a

Pushing Daisies

fan, you might want to start with creator Bryan Fuller's fantastical


(2004, 13 episodes). If you're into Judd Apatow's twisted brand of comedy, by all means check out his

Freaks and Geeks

(1999, 16 episodes) or


(2001, 17 episodes). Want a teen drama that blows away

Gossip Girl

? Don't pass up

My So-Called Life

(1994, 19 episodes).

Get plugged into "The Wire."

All 10 episodes of the fifth and final season of David Simon's masterful crime series were in the can before the strike hit, meaning they'll run straight through, free of interruption, after debuting on Jan. 6.

The Wire

, with its layered and novelistic storytelling, is one of TV's most acclaimed series.

Clear out your DVR.

If you're like us, you've got plenty of programming backlogged on your recorder that you kept meaning to get around to, but never did. Now, aren't you glad you refrained from hitting that delete button? The coming weeks - and perhaps months - will be the perfect opportunity to delve into the dark recesses of your DVR and check out the shows you couldn't quite commit to in the early part of the season.

Face up to reality:

If none of our alternatives works for you, you can always surrender to the networks and take what they'll be feeding you, much of which will consist of kooky unscripted fare. Which, in some cases, might not be so bad. If you've never seen

American Idol

, now is your chance to see what all the fuss is about.