Letterman's Shot to Take Back the Night?


After two months of WGA strike induced downtime, David Letterman, strike-beard and all, joined Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Craig Furgeson in returning to their late night slots (NYT) Wednesday night for fresh programming. Thanks to an exclusive deal reached last Friday between Dave’s Worldwide Pants production company and the Writer’s Guild, he and Craig Ferguson were the only two hosts on the network talk shows (including Jimmy Kimmel and Carson Daly, already back at work) working with a full quiver of writers. In kind, Dave gave the writers’ cause ample time throughout the show, parading out with WGA picket sign touting showgirls to kick off what at times resembled an hour long strikers’ info-comedy. Ferguson also payed his respects to the WGA with a full show without guests, running on nothing but his back-at-work staff’s surplus of written comedy bits.

Contrast this coup for Worldwide Pants and CBS with that of NBC, Leno, and Conan – forced to exist solely on interviews and improvised bits. Last month Deadline Hollywood detailed the missive from the Writer’s Guild to Jay and Conan’s camp, specifying that the two, who are Guild members themselves, were prohibited from “performing any writing services during a strike for any and all struck companies,” including “all writing by any Guild member that would be performed on-air by that member (including monologues, characters, and featured appearances) if any portion of that written material is customarily written by striking writers.” Off-the-cuff is Conan’s bread and butter, but when pressed to bring the funny on his own, Leno’s weaknesses are as plain as the chin on his face. This morning Deadline’s Nikke Finke supposes that Leno probably broke the rules on night one, delivering a pre-written monologue that flies in the face of the already laid-out restrictions from the WGA.

So not only do Jay’s guests have to cross picket lines to come on his show (like the poorly received Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee), he’s likely to receive some public razzing and further condemnation from the union for possible use of scab writers (or just being a scab on his own) to pull his cart. Letterman is worry-free on both counts.

It was July of 1995 when Hugh Grant sat down with Leno to explain how he was caught red-handed, soliciting a prostitute, when Jay took the number one late night ratings spot from Dave, and has sat there ever since. In the name of all that is, and is not funny, will the implications of the WGA strike finally take Captain Lowest Common Denominator down a notch? And will friend-of-WGA Letterman reclaim the number one position? The longer the strike, the greater the likelihood.

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 03rd 2008 | Home Page | 0 Comments Subscribe to this site's feed

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