Oh, what a tangled web we weave when writers get up from the table and leave.
The show might be going on for Ellen DeGeneres, but as the fifth full day of the Writers Guild of America walkout drew to a close Friday, the prospects for ringing in the New Year with fresh scripted programming continued to diminish.
DeGeneres, who took Monday off, then continued to tape her syndicated chatfest, minus a monologue, was back on the air Friday amid an outpouring of dismay from the New York-based WGA East, which vowed to protest when her show tapes in the Big Apple on Nov.19-20 and urged her to stop showing up for work this minute.
"On her first show back, Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise," the WGAE said in a statement Friday. "We certainly intend to let Ellen know our dissatisfaction in person if she decides to proceed with the shows she has scheduled in New York…We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog she gave away, yet she couldn't even stand by her writers for more than one day—writers who have helped make her extremely successful."
"Ellen's staff is no more important than the rest of the Industry," the statement continued. "When shows refuse to stand with us, they create huge revenue streams for the companies, and that prolongs the strike for the thousands of staff and crew members who are noble enough to honor our picket lines. We find this situation hurtful to those people and extremely unfortunate."
The WGAE also included in its release the phone number of The Ellen DeGeneres Show's production office.
Reps for the Emmy-winning talk show pointed out in a counterstatement that DeGeneres' daytime show is not the same as a network-specific late-night talker such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno or Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which have been in repeats since Monday.
Ellen is no different than Oprah, Dr. Phil, Live with Regis and Kelly, etc., and DeGeneres has contractual obligations to deliver to all of the local TV markets that air her show, they said.
"We also wish to preserve the 135 jobs of the staff and the crew whose livelihoods depend on the show continuing. We regret the Writers Guild has chosen to strike, and we wish for a quick resolution," their statement concluded.
Regrets are many these days, while resolutions are proving hard to come by.
The closest NBC could get to a solution Friday was its decision to start firing The Tonight Show's nonwriting staff as early as next week if Leno persists in not crossing the picket line.
"All sorts of things are being discussed, including guest hosts," Tonight Show executive producer Debbie Vickers said in a statement. "Our preference is that we return to the production…with Jay as host as soon as possible. We want to protect the staff, who have been loyal to this show for decades, in the same way that Johnny Carson reluctantly returned without his writers in 1988," during the last WGA strike.
The staff of Late Night and Last Call with Carson Daly have also been warned of possible future firings.
CBS has already announced that The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson will continue in repeats next week.
Unless, of course, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers can figure out a way to kiss and make up before first-run episodes start dropping like flies.
Over on FX, The Shield show runner Shawn Ryan's contract was cut off, without pay, as of Wednesday. "I will lose money with this strike—but it's not about me," Ryan told the Los Angeles Times during a rally Friday morning outside of 20th Century Fox studios.
With local musical muckrakers Tom Morello and Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine on hand to pump up the volume, 3,500 scribes and supporters gathered for about 90 minutes in Century City to further protest studios' and networks' refusal to let the writers in on the profits made by distributing original content online and via other "new media" channels, such as cell phones.
Speakers included Jesse Jackson, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and famed sitcom producer Norman Lear, who noted he was there "when we struck against the Pharaoh," let alone the six-month walkout of '88.
"Instead of negotiating, they lashed out at the little guy," said MacFarlane, whose Family Guy assistants were fired on Wednesday. "What a classy move."
"Every gain this guild has ever made—pension and health, residuals, jurisdiction—has been the result of people like you sacrificing their immediate interest for the greater good of the community," added negotiating committee chair John Bowman. "And we are a community. We help each other, and support each other, and that's what we're doing here today."