Studios begin legal action against strikers

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Television writers are currently walking the sidewalks of Hollywood, New York City, and other US locales where shows are filmed as part of the Writers Guild of America strike.

But what happens when television writers not only pen the scripts, but also produce the show? Most of those mulling the idea of either striking with writers or attending to their nonwriting duties have opted for the former to support the cause.

The result has caused mayhem in TV land as several shows--Family Guy, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, among others--have been shut down because their show runners refuse to cross the picket line. The Office's Greg Daniels has voiced his opinion and supported the cause over YouTube, and Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane is leaving Fox with only one fresh episode of the animated hit because he won't help finish several episodes that are close to being ready.

The studios initially believed that show runners would proceed with their nonwriting duties, but what they're finding is that most of them are out on the sidewalk joining in the WGA chants.

Now the studios are fighting back. CBS Paramount and 20th Century Fox have sent out breach-of-contract letters to picketing show runners, according to The New York Times, bringing forth the first major legal move of the strike. The Times cites anonymous sources who did not say which show runners were sent the notices.

The letters informed the show runners that their pay is being suspended, and at least in 20th Century Fox's case, the letters specifically said it is for failure to "report to work and render their nonwriting producing services."

Meanwhile, crewmembers on shows that have stopped production are beginning to get pink slips. According to Reuters, 20th Century Fox Television has already let go of writers' assistants, but will continue to pay their health benefits through the end of the year.

Over at NBC, a shutdown of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has forced the network to set a date of late next week for terminating the entire nonwriting staff, says Broadcasting & Cable. The same is allegedly holding true for the crew of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

However, there could be a late-hour reprieve. The jobs of Leno's late-night talk-show workers can be saved one of two ways: if Leno decides to cross the picket line--something he says he won't do--and host the show without writers, or if NBC opts to find guest hosts to fill in.

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.