Just as expected, the Late Night talkers have decided to skirt the intent of the Writers Guild Of America's function to protect members by spewing network lawyer legalize.
"The WGA agreement permits Jay to write his own monologue," said Andrea Hartman, NBC's deputy general counsel. "The strike rules can't contradict the scope and expressed terms of the basic agreement."
On his first show back Wednesday, Jay Leno - a great comic, a great guy and a great WGA member - asserted that his monologue which, save feedback coming from his wife Mavis, included only jokes he said he had written, was an exception that the WGA would allow or so said NBC lawyers. I don't know if Mavis is a WGA member, but being that Mavis Leno has been a selfless advocate for so many powerless people around the world, including the persecuted women of Afghanistan long before 9-11, helping her husband would just seem an involuntary action that she should get a pass for.
But it seems the hosts want it both ways. For example, if there is an exception for Jay the Host's material, this means that the monologue - which for years had been written by WGA writers (including Jay the WGA Writer), who are now forbidden by the WGA to write during the strike, is Jay the Host now allowed to write during the same WGA strike. Confusing? How confusing is it for the writers picketing outside the NBC studio? It's not only confusing. It's wrong.
If Jay was right, the WGA members might want to consider picketing their own guild. But even if some exception was given for the monologue (It wasn't - WGA spokesman Neal Sacharow, "The rule that they're referring to doesn't apply if someone is employed as a writer.") none could have been given for the "sketches" where Jay used staff and crew to act out material that we must assume Jay had written.
In one segment, to back up Jay's explanation that the strike by 19 writers was keeping 160 others out of work, Bob the Lighting Guy sat slovenly raising a flashlight, large belly protruding out from under a sleeveless undershirt while Richard the Scary Stagehand, who not only looked scary but raised an ax into his closeup to heighten the scary impact and the "Girls From The Office" showed up posing as street walkers. All funny, but did Bob, Richard or the Girls come up with those ideas themselves or did someone write it for them? Even if it were the NBC lawyers's explanation of Jay's exception to the rules, it doesn't permit his writing material for others to perform.
But now Monday night carries even more potential controversy. The same questions, even more so, surround The Daily Show and Colbert Report. I love both shows to death, but not to the point of scabbing content. Stewart and Colbert are WGA writers. Award-winning to boot. As with Leno and O'Brien, they should not be able to write/perform their own material or they too will have ignored the protecting the jobs of writers intent. They should not be able to decide on or or creating the captions for graphics, stills or video clips. Nor should anyone else, including film/video editors. The hosts must take themselves out of the content decision-making process altogether. That's the job of WGA writer. No exceptions.
Even if you choose to pontificate intellectually, the Oxford University Library Services defines copyrighted literary material as "anything recorded in words, letters or digits, regardless of literary merit..." Anything. Even digits. And thank God for the "regardless of literary merit" part. It saved me from undue justification for many shows I worked on.
If content originates with a host a video editor, a cameraman or the wife of a cameraman, handwritten or hand-signaled for use on the show, it's literary material and should be covered under WGA guidelines. Again, no exceptions.
That also includes WGA members crossing the line to promote their new game show. Say like, Bob Saget, another great comic, great guy and admitted WGA member.
Of course, there's probably a loophole AMPTP producers and Network lawyers will try to slip through. I just wonder if the writing of the loophole itself shouldn't also fall within WGA guidelines.
WGA Member and award-winning TV writer, Steve Young, is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" (www.greatfailure.com) doesn't expect to be hired on the Tonight Show staff...even after the strike