Breaking News, Dancing with the Stars, Labor, Television, WGA Strike

WGA Writers Consider Choreographing ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Picket

After Drew Barrymore, Bill Maher, Jennifer Hudson and The Talk reversed course on premiering their talk shows, some WGA members are now focusing on Dancing with the Stars and questioning why the dance competition is moving forward with its Sept. 26 return to ABC.

Picketing writers like David Slack have used X to remind fellow union members that DWTS is a WGA show, though most of the banter is improvised based on what just happened on the dance floor. A source close to production tells Deadline that only one WGA writer typically works on the show that otherwise employs 500 people. Even then, the source said, the writer produces talking points for host Alfonso Ribeiro.

DWTS also aired during the 2007-08 writers strike, and was not picketed.

That didn’t stop Slack from writing on X that “by appearing on a WGA-covered show using scab writing, anyone appearing on Dancing With the Stars will be emboldening the AMPTP to refuse to make deals while they wait to see if scab writing works …Writers have been on strike for 139 days and counting. Most shows are shut down. By providing studios with a scab-written show, it makes the strike take longer, keeping every other crew in Hollywood out of work … I know you’re all under contract & this is a tough situation. But if Drew Barrymore can step up and do the right thing alone, I hope you can do this together in solidarity.”

Continued union member Bill Wolkoff on X, who vows to picket the show at the former CBS TV City lot, “I am glad this news is finally coming to light. The DWTS live taping is at CBS TV City. We’re going to have a BIG week on our lot picketing struck WGA shows that have decided to return. This prolongs the strike! Spread the word that #DWTSisWGA.”

Many of the new contestants — which include Veep‘s Matt Walsh (who’s also a WGA member), How I Met Your Mother‘s Alyson Hannigan and Vanderpump Rules‘ Ariana Madix — have been tagged in the X posts. The show’s most high-profile participant, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, was even asked directly on social media whether her participation violated strike rules.

The actress responded, “No we are allowed to do reality / unscripted /competition or documentary shows. It’s a different contract.”

She’s right: variety shows like DWTS are covered under the SAG-AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, which is better known as Network Code. It is separate to the film and TV collective bargaining agreement that SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have been negotiating and is between the guild and the Big 4 broadcast networks, as well as other producers. It is the same rule that applies to daytime soaps and morning shows.

SAG has also signed off on the new season of DWTS. That means ABC can continue with it as well as Celebrity Jeopardy! and Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, which are the lynchpins of its fall schedule.

At least one former pro thinks DWTS should stay dark until a resolution is reached. While promoting her new podcast Sex, Lies and Spray Tans, Cheryl Burke told Variety that the show should “hold tight. I think we need to stand as one. We need to unite for real and not just say we’re united.” Burke left the show in November after 26 seasons.

“After the Drew Barrymore thing, I have mixed feelings,” Burke said. “Even in the pandemic, people can say, “Why would you do this?” When you’re talking about the entertainment industry, this is a sensitive subject. In order for things to change, we have to stick together, point blank, because if one show just decides to think about the show on its own, this is not going to make big changes. It is not going to change the way these other people — the opposing team — are thinking. At the end of the day, we have to stick together because that’s the only way to ever make any significant change. Even the cast of “Friends,” when they asked for more money, they all stuck together. The problem is that if we don’t, then we’re setting a precedent and I don’t think it’s gonna be good for the show, to be quite honest, in the long run. I understand what they’re thinking and I get it. It’s a business, but there is no business without the rest of the business.”

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