The staff of "The Tonight Show" may not see another day on set because of the Hollywood writers strike.
NBC informed the nonwriting staff members of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that unless a last-ditch effort to put on the show comes through, they will be laid off at the end of next week, trade publication Broadcasting & Cable reported Friday. The same timetable has been given to the staff of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."
One way to keep the "Tonight Show" staff employed awould be to line up guest hosts to take the place of Jay Leno, who is still refusing to cross the picket line. Broadcasting & Cable said if that happens, "The Tonight Show" could come back on the air Nov. 19. It went into reruns Nov. 5, the day the writers strike began, along with the rest of the late night talk shows.
"The Tonight Show" is one of more than a dozen shows on hiatus because of the writers strike. Thursday, as the strike entered its fourth day, Fox announced it will not start the new season of its hit series "24" as planned in January, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
"24's" seventh season was scheduled to begin in January, but producers shot and finished only about one-third of its 24-episode season.
"It's not a decision we wanted to make, but it's one based on how we feel the viewers expect us to schedule the show," said Preston Beckman, Fox's scheduling chief, told the Hollywood Reporter.
Fox's announcement came a day word that NBC's hit sitcom "The Office" would go on hiatus. Greg Daniels, executive producer of "The Office," said the show stopped production after its Golden Globe-winning lead, Steve Carell, refused to cross picket lines outside the network's lot in Burbank, Calif.
Other sitcoms going off the air include CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory," Fox's "Back to You" and "'Til Death," and ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Carpoolers."
Members of the WGA went on strike early Nov. 5 after failing to reach an agreement with the major TV networks and movie studios on their contract, which expired Nov. 1. The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing the major TV networks and movie studios, are at odds over how much of a cut writers should get for online distribution and DVDs of TV shows and movies.
According to experts, unless the two groups meet back at the negotiating table this week, the writers probably won't pick up their pens anytime soon.
And while the world may know Hollywood as a town of stars, it's also a town of unions. With the WGA on strike, it's possible other unions, like the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, both of which have a vested interest in the online/DVD distribution issue, and have contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that expire in 2008, could stop working as well.
"There are a lot of people who think this [strike] is going to be a matter of months and months not weeks and days," said Ben Grossman, the Los Angeles bureau chief for Broadcasting & Cable. "This is a marathon, not a sprint."
"Last I heard, there's no plan for them to even be talking, and that's a concern," he said. "There's a feeling that if they don't do something right away, in the first couple days, then we as an industry are going to be settling in for a long, long work stoppage."