Striking writers take the weekend off

Talk show host Ellen Degeneres is under fire from some striking writers for yukking it up on air, as a strike by the Writers Guild of America ends its first week.

Negotiations between the guild and major studios deadlocked six days ago, and no new talks are scheduled.

The East Coast arm of the writer's guild blasted Degeneres this week for undermining the walkout after the Burbank-based show returned to NBC's Burbank studios to tape live shows. Although Degeneres' morning gabfest went dark Monday as a show of support for striking writers, she resumed taping on Tuesday. As a show of solidarity she said she would not be doing an opening monologue.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists stuck up for Degeneres' decision to return to the air. AFTRA criticized the Guild for publicly lashing out at the talk show host, the trade magazine Broadcasting and Cable reported. An AFTRA spokeswoman issued a statement saying that as a member of the actors' union, Degeneres and others on her show were legally bound by a no-strike contract to report to work.

Late night talk show host Jay Leno is also feeling the heat from the strike as studio heads weigh whether to replace the funnyman with someone who will cross the picket line, the Los Angeles Times reported. "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" has been in reruns since the six-day strike began Monday as Leno halted taping in support of his striking writers. But NBC is now said to be weighing the idea of replacing Leno with a fill-in host, The Times reported.

David Wyatt, an L.A.-based comedy writer who's written for "The Cosby Show," "Whoopi," and "Martin," said support is growing for striking writers, as evidenced by the large turnout Friday outside the offices of Fox Studios in Century City.

"The support has been well, we've gotten more and more people out there each day," said Wyatt, a union strike captain. "On Friday we had 4,000-5,000 people."

"We're ready to sit out for however long it takes to get a fair deal," added Wyatt.

Talks between writers and major studios broke off Sunday, mainly over payments for shows that are rerun on the Internet and other new media. Negotiations have not resumed.

Daily TV talk shows have been hit hard by the strike, with many being forced into showing reruns as comedy writers walked off the job. Workers at TV shows that have shut down production since the strike could soon face layoffs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged both sides to settle their differences quickly. He said the strike was already having a major impact on the state's economy.

No strike actions are scheduled for this weekend but writers will be manning the picket lines again on Monday outside several major studios, according to the strike schedule posted on the WGA Web site.


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