Strike Makes Good Excuse for Some

Jan 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Some promotion-phobic stars are using the writers strike as an unassailable excuse to beg off the talk-show circuit.
That’s the talk among people who book or deploy celebrities to promote their projects on TV.
But no one is willing to name a star who has actually done it.
The stars are reviewing their publicity tour options more carefully than usual these days as they try to book shows that will give them the maximum daily requirement of exposure without crossing a picket line and running afoul of the Writers Guild of America, which went on strike Nov. 5 against the producers studios and networks.
“Every artist’s conscience manifests in a different way,” said one TV publicity executive.
“Every actor’s management has a different point of view,” said a movie studio publicity executive.
January is traditionally a dry month for movie releases. Making the rounds of New York-based shows last week were the ensembles from “Mad Money” (Katie Holmes led the parade from “Late Show With David Letterman” to “Good Morning America” to “Live With Regis & Kelly”) and “27 Dresses” (Katherine Heigl’s route took her from “Letterman” to “Today” to “Live” and a taping for “Martha Stewart”).
“Letterman” and Worldwide Pants stablemate “The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” on CBS have a WGA deal and seal of approval for actors seeking a platform for publicity. “Live” is in good standing with the WGA. All the network morning shows are cool with the WGA.
Warner Bros.’ syndicated “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and ABC’s “The View” are not so cool, because the hosts have continued to work, without their writers, through the strike.
One reality-show staple ruffled feathers at “The View” by canceling a booking rather than cross a picket line.
On the other hand, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is booked to appear on “The View” today, to mark Martin Luther King Day. And “Rambo” auteur Sylvester Stallone appeared on the ABC daytime show last Friday to promote his latest action flick.
The strike has reduced the number of scripted shows bowing in January. As more reality shows are launched to fill the spots or return for regular runs, their stars are turning up on talk shows. “Project Runway’s” Heidi Klum, for example, recently made the rounds, including an appearance on “The View.”
The struck shows, including ABC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” have withheld their lineups until airtime to protect their guests from possible blowback. They have managed to fill those lineups with close corporate family friends—former “Will & Grace” star and NBC talk show host Megan Mullally, now winning raves in “Young Frankenstein” on Broadway, appeared on “Late Night” after Conan O’Brien returned to the air with a strike beard but without his still-striking writers—or with NBC newsmen, such as “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams or MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who are not confronted with the same labor loyalties.
Musicians seem less put off by picket lines. Up-and-coming rapper Lupe Fiasco followed an appearance on “Letterman” with a West Coast swing that included appearing on “Craig Ferguson,” which is not a struck show, and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which is a struck show.
Maroon 5 and Matchbox Twenty both have done “The View.” Jill Scott appeared on “Kimmel.”
Rapper-movie star Ice Cube was ubiquitous as he promoted the release of his movie “First Sunday.”
Publicity veterans say the willingness of musicians to overlook picket lines speaks to the dire straits the recording industry is in as much as to any labor philosophies.
But within the film and TV communities, “A lot of actors just want to do the right thing so that when this is over they can say they were on the right side,” said the movie publicity executive.


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