NBC is considering substituting guest hosts for Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien on their respective late-night talk shows if the writers' strike becomes a lengthy affair, Daily Varietyreported today (Monday), citing no sources. Leno has maintained that he could not perform effectively without his writing staff, although O'Brien, a former comedy writer himself, brought the house down at a charity affair last week with quips that were widely reported and displayed his ability to perform without assistance from a writing staff. Varietyindicated that David Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel might return to the air as early as next week. Meanwhile, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strongly condemned the Writers Guild of America East's attack on Ellen DeGeneres for continuing to tape her daytime talk show during the strike. In a letter to WGAE Executive Director Mona Managan, her AFTRA counterpart, Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, wrote that DeGeneres is bound by a no-strike clause in her contract requiring her to report to work. "If WGAE had concerns about the activities of this AFTRA member, we cannot fathom why we did not receive so much as a courtesy heads-up to discuss the situation and see what we could do to work together in support of WGA's members," Hedgpeth continued, describing the situation as a "stunning breach of basic inter-union courtesy" and a "misstep that threatens to frustrate the solidarity of organized labor on a cause that we should all stand together, and stand up, for." In her response, Mangan said, in effect, that the WGA did not intend to "involve any union, such as your own, in our efforts to encourage individuals to withhold their services. What we ask of them are acts of individual conscience." Meanwhile, Telepictures Productions, which produces DeGeneres's show, pointed out that virtually every other syndicated daytime talk show has remained in production -- without any of the others being singled out for attack by the WGA.


Two major Hollywood agents are working behind the scenes to bring the two sides in the writers strike together, according to L.A. Weeklycolumnist Nikki Finke. Writing in her Deadline Hollywood blog, Finke quoted an unnamed source as saying that a partner at one of the agencies has been having "much conversation" with the WGA's Dave Young, while a partner at a different agency has been talking to the AMPTP's Nick Counter. Pointing out that the principal talent of Hollywood agents is to negotiate deals, Finke reported that the conversations have produced "hope [that] the agents can help clear away side issues and facilitate the restart of settlement talks."


CBS's Thursday-night crossover ploy, in which a story begun on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation at 9:00 p.m. concluded at 10:00 on Without a Trace, sent ratings up for each show but most of all for Trace, which saw its ratings among adults 18-49 jump 68 percent over its average this season, according to Nielsen Research. CBS also scored strongly at 8:00 p.m. with Survivor: China, giving it a sweep of the November-sweeps night. CBS also performed strongly on Friday with wins by Ghost Whispererat 8:00 p.m. and Numb3rsat 10:00 p.m. and a solid performance by Moonlightat 9:00 p.m. that placed second among overall viewers but first among the 18-49 demo. In addition CBS won the throw-away night on Saturday but fell to second place on Sunday, which was dominated by NBC's Sunday Night Football (Colts vs. Chargers), which averaged an 11.7 rating and a 17 share and was outscored only at 9:00 p.m. by ABC's Desperate Housewives,which recorded an 11.8/17.


Borders bookstores has begun introducing a broadcast service, Borders TV, in more than 300 of its stores that will provide original programming, ads, news and weather supplied by The New York Times, CBS, and E! Entertainment, the New York Timesreported today (Monday). Borders CEO George Jones told the newspaper that the screens represent "another way that we can bring knowledge and entertainment" to customers. Borders has partnered in the enterprise with the three-year-old Ripple, which also has similar deals with Jack-in-the-Box and Jiffy Lube, the Timessaid.


Google has been talking with British entertainment mogul Simon Fuller about creating original content for the Internet that could compete with that offered by major broadcasters, Britain's Guardiannewspaper reported today (Monday). Fuller is responsible for creating the Spice Girls and American Idol. Although details remain secret, the newspaper, citing sources close to Fuller, said that the enterprise could "revolutionize the way entertainment and music are distributed." It did not indicate whether the project would be launched as a separate unit of Google or as part of its YouTube division.