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Carell Ducks 'The Office' for Strikers

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GARY GENTILE | November 7, 2007 03:57 PM EST | AP

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LOS ANGELES — Writers were back on the picket lines Wednesday after their strike forced at least eight prime-time shows, including the popular NBC sitcom "The Office," to halt production.

As the strike entered its third day, no new negotiations were scheduled on the main sticking point between writers and producers: payments from DVDs and shows offered on the Internet.

One of the largest rallies yet occurred outside the gates of the Disney studio in Burbank. About 60 people, including a number of powerful producer-writers known in the industry as "showrunners," joined the protest, despite that networks expected many of them to report to work as managers.

Among them was Greg Daniels, executive producer of the "The Office," who said filming stopped on the show after star Steve Carell refused to cross picket lines. Writers and actors from the show used their time on the picket line to make a video and post it on YouTube.

Sally Field, who won the best actress Oscar in 1979 for the pro-union film "Norma Rae," left the set of her ABC show, "Brothers & Sisters," to visit strikers outside the Disney lot.

Writers "are not being allowed to participate in the future of the business," Field said. "This can be a very lucrative field, but also incredibly insecure for all of the artists, writers, actors and directors."

Mark Perry, executive producer of "Brothers & Sisters," said filming on the show will end next week as it runs out of scripts.

Jay Leno drove a vintage sports car to the rally and stopped to chat with strikers. He apologized for not having any funny lines to share, blaming the problem on _ what else? _ the strike.

The strike began Monday after last-minute negotiations failed to produce a deal. The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said no new talks had been scheduled. Neither group offered further comment Wednesday.

Production of at least seven sitcoms has been halted because of the strike, and the hit ABC drama "Desperate Housewives" was scheduled to finish filming its latest episode because it had run out of scripts.

Along with "The Office," sitcoms that will stop the cameras include "Back to You," "The New Adventures of Old Christine." "Til Death," "Rules of Engagement," "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory."

Filming on the 13th episode of the freshman ABC comedy "Carpoolers" was also set to finish Wednesday, ABC Studios spokeswoman Charissa Gilmore said. No new episodes have been ordered.

Networks were expected to announce plans for alternative programming in the coming days.

The strike immediately brought repeats of late-night comedy shows, but it was not expected to have an immediate impact on production of movies. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and many TV shows have scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

Writers have not gone on strike since 1988, when the walkout lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry more than $500 million.

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Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this story.