Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Return to Late-Night

The promised blog about the NFL Network is coming later tonight (gotta do the real job first), but I thought I'd chip in on my thoughts concerning the writer's strike. Tonight is a big night, as Letterman, Leno, Conan, and Ferguson all return to the airwaves after nearly two months of reruns. Carson Daly has been back for a couple of weeks, but I'm going to keep this blog focused on legitimate talk-show hosts.

There has been a lot of debate as to whether Leno and Conan should even return, as they themselves are WGA members, and are coming back without a writing staff. Apparently, the "rule" is they can't pre-write material, but anything they make up on the fly won't be considered scabbing. There has actually been some heavy debate however if that should be considered crossing the picket lines as well. The NBC shows tonight will be interesting, and the host say they are going to ad-lib more, and rely on longer interviews with guests. It's unclear as to whether or not the questions can be written before hand, it's really just a giant mess for the Peacock. Expect both Leno and Conan to address the strike for about five minutes, say they regret going on, but have to for the rest of the staff that depends on the show for their jobs. I think they are right in that respect, but I expect their monologues to come off as forced. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel will be the same way, but I think he'll be able to do a better job with the ad-lib stuff, because of his personality and the guys he has on his show (his family and Guillermo). Not sure what to expect from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report when they return next week.

Letterman and Ferguson are more lucky, if you want to call it luck. At NBC, the shows are run by the network, so the writers deal directly with them. At CBS, it's actually Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, that produce both shows. The WGA has allowed the writers to return to the Letterman produced shows, as they have apparently struck some sort of deal. This means Letterman and Ferguson will have the benefit of writers, scripted comedy bits, and better monologues. Today, the WGA came out and said they are openly trying steer guests towards the CBS shows, as no scabbing is invovled there.

Still, I think at least for now, the audience will go back to normal, with more people watching the NBC shows, and then if this thing lasts long enough, they may eventually flock to CBS. It will be interesting to see how they deal with it.

But it will be nice, as a viewer, to be able to watch new late night programming, and it's nice that the people that depend on these shows for work, will finally be able to earn a paycheck that isn't coming out of their hosts pockets of charity. Whether the shows will be good or not reamins to be seen, but I don't disagree one bit, that the show must go on.


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