UPDATE: Late Night TV’s Official Return: A Sneak Peek Of The Shows

wga-strike-huckabee1.jpgThe Late Show With David Letterman snagged Hillary Clinton as a last-minute guest for his New York City show tonight. But on the other coast, about 100 striking writers carrying signs saying “Mike Huckabee: What Would Jesus Do?” and “Huckabee: You Can’t Deny This Cross” protested the Republican presidential candidate’s decision to cross their union’s picket line outside NBC Studios in Burbank even though he expressed “unequivocal” and “absolute” support for the writers’ cause earlier in the day. He was the main guest on Leno’s first Tonight Show back from strike hiatus after Jay, too, decided to cross the picket line. The strikers have been crowding every entranceway all day, from 8 AM through 6 PM, to ensure they slammed the former Arkansas governor who of all the GOP candidates vying for the White House has actively solicited and received union support. “We’re hoping that when he [Huckabee] arrives and sees the picket line he’ll turn around,” said WGA West prez Patric Verrone. “We’ll be disappointed if he makes the appearance.” Well he did, and the WGA was angry. Especially because Huckabee had told the press earlier in the day, “I support the writers, by the way. Unequivocally, absolutely. They’re dead right on this one. I don’t think anybody supports the producers on this one. Maybe the producers support the producers, but I think everybody in the business and even the general public supports the writers.”  (Photos by Jim Stevenson.)

huck-picket-sign-1.jpgUPDATE: I’m tipped tonight that Huckabee used the non-picketed Telemundo gate on Olive just south of Alameda in Burbank to avoid the picketers. The gate, which the WGA wasn’t picketing before, is now “tainted”, which is union terminology to mean that NBC and not just Telemundo is using it, so the WGA is now free to picket at that site as well. Huckabee now is claiming he thought the writers strike had settled which is why he crossed the picket line and went on Leno. But nobody’s buying that, least of all the WGA which issued this statement: “The Writers Guild is disappointed that Mike Huckabee crossed the WGA picket line today at NBC. We welcome the statements of support he has made for striking writers, but we ask him to respect our picket lines in the future and urge the media conglomerates to return to the bargaining table to make a fair deal that will put writers and the entertainment industry back to work.”

Unlike Huckabee, Clinton didn’t have to cross a picket line because David Letterman’s Late Show is not a struck company. Clinton has repeatedly refused to cross WGA picket lines. So even if she’d shown up in person there wouldn’t have been any striking writers outside Letterman’s Ed Sullivan Theater because his Worldwide Pants received an interim agreement from the WGA so Dave could go back on the air with his scribes. Dave’s show opened with a taped cameo by Hillary Clinton facing the camera and saying: “Dave’s been off the air for eight long weeks because of the writers strike. Tonight he’s back. Oh well — all good things must come to an end.” (Since she hasn’t been the butt of his jokes for two months now…)

huck-picket-sign-20.jpgUsually, long lines of wannabe audience members throng outside NBC Studios before The Tonight Show shoots. But it was clear not everyone knew that a writers strike was underway. There was a journalism college student from Alaska who came out to L.A. on vacation and, instead of going in to see The Tonight Show, read one of the WGA’s informational leaflets and joined the picket line. A teacher who recently moved to town arrived to pick up a ticket and saw the labor action. She immediately called her teachers union rep who urged her not to cross. So she joined the striking writers on the picket line.