The first and most apparent casualty of the WGA writers’ strike was the immediate absence of all late night television. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Nite with Conan O’Brien and even Last Call with Carson Daly all shut down production once the strike began. However, the word is that most, if not all, of these shows are in back channel discussions with their networks to return to air sooner rather than later. The reason for this is that hundreds of lower-level production staff depend upon their jobs on these shows for a career. Also, while writers are an integral part of these shows, they aren’t completely necessary.
There is precedent for the return of late night television during a writers’ strike. During the 1988 writers’ strike, Johnny Carson returned to work a month into the strike. While Ellen Degeneres’ continued production on her show has incited an extremely negative response from the WGA, late night hosts may be banking on the vaunted memory of Johnny Carson to ease their return to airwaves. December 3 and December 10 are two of the main dates being discussed for a return to late night. There is a feeling that the hosts should agree on a communal return date because no one wants to be the first to return. A joint return will likely tone down the WGA’s wrath.
In the mean time, the networks are still paying the crews on their late night shows, but this is only through the end of the year. This may end once of the first of the year hits (that is, if the shows haven’t returned to production by then).
While it is widely accepted that late night is on its way back, some programs are better equipped to endure life sans writers than others. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are two shows that contain a significant amount of scripted material. The Colbert Report, especially, is almost completely scripted with not much room for extemporaneous discussion. The Daily Show may be OK without writers, but since the correspondents are also WGA members (or one would think they’d be), there’s going to be a lot of time to fill. Given Jon Stewart’s experience going off-book, he could survive without writers, but I can’t imagine it’ll be pretty.
Another possible casualty of the writers’ strike are the hosts of award shows, primarily Jon Stewart, who is supposed to host the 2008 Academy Awards. I’d love to say one way or the other how the strike will impact the Oscars, but no one really knows. There are so many variables: Will stars even attend? How will a show without writers’ look? Will the writers be allowed to attend the shows, even if they are nominated? Will Jon Stewart be allowed to host? It’s possible that everyone will forget about the strike for one night and Hollywood will show up with smiles on. It’s also possible that all writers and some stars boycott the event, along with host Jon Stewart. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of Comedy Central)