Late-Night Hosts Ponder Return!
Post by: Sal
Jay Leno, David Letterman and their fellow late-night hosts have stayed away from work since the writers' strike began, but speculation is rising that they'll be back on the air early next year.
All the late-night hosts (save Carson Daly, who's not a Writers Guild member and began taping new shows last week) have kept their shows dark since the Writers Guild of America began its strike in early November. As the strike heads toward the two-month mark with no sign of resolution, though, the hosts are reportedly considering when the right time to return might be.
While stressing that nothing is official and no one is commenting on the situation, Variety reports that "several hosts" will return to their shows shortly after New Year's. The trade paper also says that people involved with the NBC and CBS late-night shows have been informally discussing going back on the air at roughly the same time.
Daly has received some harsh criticism for crossing the picket lines -- and for an e-mail soliciting jokes that was leaked to news outlets -- but there appears to be a little more understanding for Letterman, Leno and Co. should they decide to return.
"If you ask people on the line, they would have been thrilled if the guys just stayed off a month for sweeps," long-time "Late Show" writer Bill Scheft told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.
Scheft also thinks having his boss on the air could help the writers' cause: "David Letterman, on the air without writers ... is the greatest ally the writers would ever have, because he would rail nightly," Scheft told the Times. "He could be more influential as an on-air stone in people's shoes. The leverage for us might be him and Jon [Stewart] and Conan [O'Brien] talking trash."
There is precedent for hosts returning to work during a writers' strike. Johnny Carson returned to "The Tonight Show" about two months into the 1988 strike, citing concern for show staffers who were going without paychecks. Letterman followed suit and memorably spent most of one episode getting a shave.
Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, is covering the salaries for employees of "The Late Show" and "The Late Late Show," which it also owns, through the end of this year. Leno and "Late Night" host O'Brien, who don't own their shows, are also paying their employees, as is ABC's Jimmy Kimmel.