"Office" workers join striking writers

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It was a slow day at “The Office” on Monday, Day 1 of the Writers Guild of America’s first strike in almost 20 years.

Several cast members of the hit NBC comedy, led by star Steve Carell, didn’t show up for work as union members picketed Hollywood studios and networks.

Representatives for Carell, who also has a background as a writer, declined comment on whether Carell’s action was in support of the strike. It wasn’t clear Monday night if Carell would report to work Tuesday.

Co-star Rainn Wilson called in sick, while B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling, who also are writers on the show, were on strike, as was “Office” showrunner Greg Daniels, who was spotted on the picket lines.

Without Carell and Wilson, only two scenes of “Office” were shot Monday, sources said.

Ellen DeGeneres also did not show up to shoot her syndicated daytime talker “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”.

“Ellen did not go to work today in support of her writers,” publicist Kelly Bush said.

New episodes of “Ellen” that had been filmed last week were set to air Monday and Tuesday. Bush said it was unclear what would happen with the show later in the week.

CBS’ “Cane” had to readjust its filming schedule when a group of about 20 writers from the picket line in front of the CBS lot in Studio City disrupted a location shoot for the show at the nearby Java Cafe by chanting and screaming.

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“Cane” was supposed to film a scene at the cafe before returning to the lot for additional shooting. When the picketers descended on the cafe, the crew packed up and moved to the lot, where they continued working. It was not clear when the cafe scene would be reshot.

As expected, all late-night shows and most multi-camera sitcoms went dark.

Showrunners by and large didn’t show up for work. A lot has been made of what writer-producers can do during the strike, but they largely honored the picket lines. There were isolated reports of one or two showrunners actually making it to work, and also reports of some working from home.

Writers were already beginning to feel the financial impact from the walkout. Most studios Monday sent out suspension letters to scribes with production deals. Some writers were seen packing up their stuff.

In another strike-related development, ABC has pushed the premiere date of its midseason drama “Cashmere Mafia.”

The show, originally scheduled to debut November 27, following the one-hour finale of “Dancing With the Stars,” will now be launched after January 1. Sources said that with the uncertainty surrounding the strike, the network opted to hold onto the show until next year and give it a proper launch then.

“Dancing” will be extended to two hours on November 27. Beginning December 4, ABC will air specials Tuesdays at 9 p.m. where “Cashmere” was scheduled to air.

On the film side, executives in recent weeks have worked overtime both to secure scripts because of the threat of a writers strike and also to move projects into production so that they will be completed should either the directors or actors go on strike in the summer. A survey of the major studios did not turn up any current film productions that were affected by the strike -- even though writers will no longer be available to assist in any hastily needed rewrites either during shooting or editing. For example, DreamWorks’ thriller “Eagle Eye,” directed by D.J. Caruso, was scheduled to begin filming Tuesday, and the studio will begin filming another project, “Hotel for Dogs,” next week.

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Instead, the onset of the strike forced many in the film trenches to shift gears.

One studio executive said he was catching up on his workload by reading scripts that already had been submitted, reading writing samples and also watching directors’ reels.

One literary agent, admitting that “there’s not a lot we can do -- you can’t even set up general meetings,” said he was concentrating instead on getting assignments for his directing clients.

“The list of things I do hasn’t necessarily changed. It’s how I allocate my time that has,” one manager said. “I’m still busy, just not as overloaded.”

Both the agent and manager agreed, however, that in the event of a long strike, agents -- with more time on their hands -- will end up trying to find new clients to sign and then could turn to that perennial agency sport: poaching one another’s clients.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter