Ellen vs. the Writers Guild of America


You’ve probably seen the headlines: The striking writers aren’t very happy with Ellen DeGeneres.

You see, she gave them a puppy, and the dog was a great companion out on the picket lines. But then Ellen returned to whisk the canine away, mumbling something about an animal shelter and bad PR. Despite the tears and pleas of hundreds of unwashed writers in need of a little puppy love, the mutt will never again march and chant with his guild brothers and sisters.

Nah, it’s something much more serious: The writers want Ellen to stop taping her talk show until the strike has ended. The WGA East issued a statement on Friday, and it got personal:

In anticipation of her plans to tape shows in New York City on November 19th and 20th, the Writers Guild of America, East is extremely disappointed to see that Ellen has chosen not to stand with writers during the strike. Ellen’s peers who host comedy/variety shows have chosen to support the writers and help them get a fair contract, Ellen has not. On her first show back, Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise. …

We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn’t even stand by writers for more than one day — writers who have helped make her extremely successful.

Ouch. Also last week, Dan Tobin, a writers’ assistant on The Ellen Show (her second sitcom), launched a sternly worded attack of his own against Ellen — not just for crossing the picket lines, but for the way she treats writers generally. Perhaps Ellen (like another famous lesbian talk show host) isn’t always as nice as she seems (but, really, who is?).

Meanwhile, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has begged to differ with the WGA. They say it’s not quite so simple for Ellen: “Telepictures and Warner Bros have a contractual obligation to the affiliates to continue production and deliver original programming. They asked Ellen to come back to work to fulfill her contractual obligation as host and producer.” So Ellen herself could be in breach of contract if she doesn’t show up for work.

Unlike the late-night staples, Ellen’s show is syndicated, so the contracts are different. Ellen has stated that she is not using her WGA writers (because she supports the strike), but the WGA says that by writing jokes that would otherwise be penned by her writers, Ellen is performing “struck work.” And as far as they’re concerned, that’s just plain scabby.

Is this a tough call or a no-brainer? There’s no question that if every single TV show were to go dark in support of the striking writers, the producers would feel increased pressure to go to the negotiating table. But there’s some disagreement about what the WGA strike rules actually require. Instead of turning this into a labor law class, I’ll just cling to my belief that Ellen wants to do the right thing for everyone concerned — even if it takes her a while to figure out what that is. It will take more than one bilious blogger to turn me against her.

You can read all about it on Deadline Hollywood Daily, and of course we’ll continue to keep an eye on the picket lines. (Yeah, partly because some of the pictures are kinda hot.)

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