Plus, Katie Couric's next move, and more

By Lynette Rice
April 30, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Martin Sheen: David Rose

STRIKE TOO? Regis Philbin will show up for work, but Martin Sheen might walk out. Susan Lucci will clock in, but Frankie Muniz could pull a Norma Rae. Confused? So are we. It turns out not every actor has to hit the picket line if the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) decides to strike when its contract expires June 30.

That’s because many TV thesps fall under the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) union, which reps all actors on taped shows (whereas SAG covers those on filmed programs like ”The West Wing”). Now here’s where things get tricky: AFTRA has two contract deadlines — one covers prime time actors on the Big Three nets and expires June 30; the other covers the remaining actors (including Fox, UPN, the WB, cable, talk shows, and soaps) and ends Nov. 15.

AFTRA and SAG, which traditionally negotiate their contracts together, could make the joint decision to strike if their terms aren’t met. But that doesn’t mean every AFTRA member can just walk off the job come July 1. ”There seems to be a general perception that all of TV will shut down in the event of an actors’ strike on June 30,” says Greg Hessinger, AFTRA’s national executive director. ”We do not want to see individuals who have an obligation to perform their jobs under the [Nov. 15] contract be subjected to criticism for not honoring the picket lines.”

HERE ‘TODAY’… Matt Lauer might be ”Today”’s globetrotter, but all eyes are glued on Katie Couric’s whereabouts. The a.m. hostess has been openly taking meetings with syndicators keen on making her the next queen of daytime (she just met with Telepictures, the producer of Rosie O’Donnell’s show, which is looking for a franchise to replace O’Donnell, who plans to hang up her mic after next season).

Couric’s contract expires spring 2002, and speculators expect the 10 year ”Today” vet to make a move. Not so, says a longtime colleague, who believes Couric will stay on for at least three more years. ”Why would she want to leave the best job in TV?” says the source. Couric declined to comment.

BUBBLE TROUBLE Looks like ”The Fugitive” is still running for his life. The Tim Daly starrer, along with fellow CBS dramas ”Family Law,” ”Kate Brasher,” and ”That’s Life,” is dangling by its fingertips waiting for the Eye to decide whether to renew it for the fall. At NBC, the forecast looks bleak for ”Three Sisters,” ”The Fighting Fitzgeralds,” ”DAG,” and the pricey, though tepidly rated, drama ”Third Watch.” At ABC, the fates of ”The Geena Davis Show” and ”Gideon’s Crossing” are still up in the air, while Fox is mulling over the future of ”The Lone Gunmen.” Over at the WB, a dark cloud looms over ”Hype,” ”Grosse Pointe,” ”Roswell,” and ”Jack & Jill.” As for UPN? We’re gonna go out on a limb and say the netlet will be back.

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