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Bruce Vilanch Discusses WGA Strike On “The O’Reilly Factor”

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Writers’ Strike Still Going
From: The O’Reilly Factor (Fox News Network)
Date: December 18, 2007
Author: Bill O’Reilly
12-18-2007

O’REILLY: “Factor Follow-up” segment tonight, it’s now been six weeks since entertainment writers have gone on strike. Many programs are off the air, as you know. Ellen DeGeneres went back to work, but few other talk show people did until now. Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien have announced they will cross the picket lines and go back to work January 2. David Letterman is trying to negotiate a deal with the writers, but with Leno coming back, most expect Letterman to return, as well.

Joining us now from Los Angeles, one of the most successful writers in show biz, Bruce Vilanch.

All right. So you’re — you write the Academy Awards and a whole bunch of other shows. And now you’ve got to see…

BRUCE VILANCH, WRITER: Sorry I didn’t dress well.

O’REILLY: And — well, that’s all right, Mr. Vilanch. You’re a Hollywood pinhead. You can dress any way you want to dress.

VILANCH: It’s hidden under there.

O’REILLY: You know, that’s why you guys go out and do this stuff. I wish I could be with you.

Now, Leno and O’Brien, they’re the first crack in the dam. They’re going back. What say you?

VILANCH: Well, you know, they’re between a rock and a hard place. I mean, they’ve got Sophie Tucker’s choice. What are they going to do?

They’re either put hundreds of people out of work who are non-writing staff, or they’re going to honor their position as members of the Writers’ Guild and not cross the picket line.

Clearly, the network wants them back to work, and they’ve got all these people who depend on them for livelihoods. So I think they’ve made the choice they’d rather see them continue to survive than take a moral high ground and so, “OK, I’m not going to go back.” O’REILLY: How do the writers see that, though? Do they think that’s OK, or is there betrayal involved?

VILANCH: I think that it’s evenly divided. The people who don’t like Jay and don’t like Conan probably see them as horrible individuals who are betraying the goals of the guild. And I think everybody else will probably understand that, when you’re the papa and you have to feed the family, you have a very tough choice to make.

O’REILLY: OK, but here’s my question for you. And you seem to be sympathetic to Leno and O’Brien.

VILANCH: Yes.

O’REILLY: If all of the stars of all of the shows did the same thing and said, you know, we’ve got a big staff. And listen. I mean, I’m not taking one side or the other here. I sympathize with the writers. I’m a writer myself. And I want them to make a good living.

But you’re right, there are other people suffering and these guys, Leno and Letterman, particularly, have carried their — have paid their salaries out of their own pocket, and we admire that.

VILANCH: True.

O’REILLY: But if all the entertainment people go back, the writers really lose power. They really lose it.

VILANCH: Well, there’s a little gray area here, because we’re talking about the kinds of shows that are partially scripted. Leno does a monologue, but a lot of his show is just sitting and talking to idiotic starlets.

O’REILLY: Like me.

VILANCH: So he doesn’t — like me. So he doesn’t need a writer to actually come up with that kind of stuff. What will be curious to see is what happens when the Jay Leno show turns into the Charlie Rose show, when they’re just kind of sitting around a table trading quips.

O’REILLY: Whatever he does…

VILANCH: There are no bits.

O’REILLY: Yes, but Leno is pretty clever.

VILANCH: It’s different. I mean, obviously, “Desperate Housewives” is a scripted show.

O’REILLY: Right, but that’s what I mean. If all of them decide to come back, and they get scab labor, whereas people are — you know how it works.

VILANCH: There is no scab labor involved here. They’re not going to be doing any written segments. Instead of the scripted, they’ll do interviews.

O’REILLY: Here’s how it’s going to go down. And I’m looking out for you and the guys on the picket line. Here’s how it’s going to go down.

They’re going to get stuff. They’re going to get it through the fax machine, though e-mail, and they’re going to get it from people that you don’t know anything about. That’s where they’re getting it. And it’s going to happen, and it will happen in the drama shows, as well. There are tons of writers out there who will do this on the sly.

VILANCH: I think it’s more and more difficult for that. I think that happened years ago. I think it’s almost impossible to do that now without leaving some kind of a viral footprint.

Every place you go there’s somebody with a cell phone taking your picture. I think it’s going to be very hard for these guys to harvest material without other people know about it.

And certainly, if they can’t get it from their guild-writing staff, the guild-writing staff is going to wonder where they’re getting it from, and they’re going to find out. I don’t think it’s going to work that way.

I think it’s going to be ad lib kind of chat fest.

O’REILLY: All right.

VILANCH: It’s really all they can do. I don’t know anybody who’s going to be supplying Jay jokes on the side. I mean, he’s been working with the same guys for years and years.

O’REILLY: I understand that. But he knows people, and he himself is a good writer. And so is Letterman. They can — they can generate some of their own stuff. Not the amount of stuff they need, but they can generate it.

VILANCH: Right.

O’REILLY: We’ve got to run. I hope — I hope the strike is settled, particularly around this time of year.

VILANCH: It’s just begun.

O’REILLY: Yes. I hope so.

VILANCH: I’m hoping in time for the Oscars, but I doubt it.

O’REILLY: All right.

When we come right back, “Is it Legal?” with Kelly and Wiehl.

Tonight, will Debra LaFave, who had sex with a 14-year-old boy, stay out of prison on a parole violence? She was in court today. Also an update on the legal battle between a sex club in a small Texas town that wants that club out of there. Moments away.

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