WGA condemns Leno; Wins latenight ratings

by Paul William Tenny

Nikki Finke's revelation that a clique of "A-list'ers" within the writers guild are plotting against the leadership -- which ought to send Kay Reindl into a fatal seizure if she's true to her "shoot all traitors" philosophy -- and will go fi-core to escape the strike and go back to work if the WGA doesn't accept pretty much whatever deal the DGA gets from the AMPTP, doesn't sound like it's panning out.

In addition to the "are they or aren't they" debate, Jay Leno received a lashing from the WGA over writing his own monologue for last nights return to the air.
This, from a WGA statement released today (Variety):

"A discussion took place today between Jay Leno and the Writers Guild to clarify to him that writing for 'The Tonight Show' constitutes a violation of the Guilds' strike rules," the WGA said in a statement.

I said as much early this morning while writing my thoughts on Letterman's show. Jay Leno is a WGA member and has been for a long time, he simply can't write material that'll be used on that show that would have otherwise been written by a union member which obviously includes Leno himself, because he's technically still on strike as a writer.

So what exactly can and will be done to "discourage" Leno from scabbing?

Sure Leno's ratings may stay the same or even go up as audiences anticipate a potential on-air train wreck. But can they stay there? Will America's late night viewing habits change? And will NBC suffer?

What makes the situation even trickier is that Leno has been very supportive of his own picketing writers and the entire WGA since the strike began two months ago (see photo above) by delivering food and drinks to the scribes walking the line.

I think the real side in a bind here is the guild, not Leno. If they come down hard on him, they'll look like and be portrayed by the AMPTP as hardliners looking to crush any and all dissent -- gleefully ignoring the fact that Leno is knowingly violating the strike rules -- and cause the WGA a lot of good will they've earned simply as a result of all the bad actions by the AMPTP piling up into a massive train wreck.

Nikki's note about Leno being very guild friendly and supportive is not insubstantial either, which makes the situation so uncomfortable in the first place. Leno caused this mess and all I think is needed to fix it is pressure.

If writers are planning on sneaking into the taping to disrupt it initially (which I think is fair game) then they ought to focus on heckling Leno first to get him to stop scabbing, even though I keep reading that picketers and the guild are going out of their way to convince people that are protesting NBC, not Jay Leno.

Well, now there is good cause to do both, and it was an entirely avoidable mess that the WGA really didn't need right now. What in the world was he thinking?


Craig Mazin disclaimed any part in the supposed "A-list'er" feature writers revolt against guild leadership:

Got a few emails today asking if I have anything to do with this.


Didn't know about it, wasn't invited to it, don't know if it's true or not.

..and also called around other people he described as "the definition of A-list" said none of them had been "invited" either. With these people hiding in the shadows, it's impossible to know what their numbers are, or even if they actually are top-line talent or just really egotistical.

I also don't think it was appropriate for Finke to report that a single writer who has been against the strike from the outset went "fi-core." To give you some background, through a series of laws and court rulings, people in unions are allowed to go "financial core" which means they only have to pay regular union dues related to bargaining and stuffing the benefit funds, etc.

Other than that, they are freed from practically every rule the union makes which includes scabbing during a strike. They are also ironically barred from voting on any subsequent contracts, meaning obviously they can't vote against a contract they don't approve of after they've essentially quit the union in protest of said contract.

Unfortunately, it also means they still reap the benefits of that contract's gains and its protections. They also still get union benefits like health care and pension, which is facially absurd.

I won't link to this article nor will I repeat this persons name, but I will say it's not exactly what I'd consider A-list talent, anyway.

Going fi-core is a right I fundamentally agree with only because membership is compelled. If you sell something to a company that has signed the MBA (the WGA's contract) then you can't sell anything to them or any other "signatory" company ever again..unless you join the WGA. You are essentially blacklisted right away if you don't join, otherwise the guild would have no power at all.

I understand the reasons why, but still disagree with compelled membership. So long as it exists, fi-core must exist to sanitize the process so that it at least appears democratic, even if it really isn't.

That said and reasons why aside, doing it is still stabbing your guild in the back, fighting against it, while benefiting from the wars it wins anyway.

That's disgusting, and as such, so is this scab.


FYI, The Tonight Show won the ratings battle last night which wasn't exactly surprising. Leno was winning it on a regular basis before the strike and all his faithful viewers were expected to return, not knowing what they were going to get.

Now we know, and for the next couple of weeks, we'll see what the real ramifications of the deal between the WGA and Worldwide Pants will be.

Leno: 5.3/12
Letterman: 4.3/10

Both shows were up nearly double their pre-strike ratings.
in Ratings, Television


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