NBC announced today that after two months of repeats, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” will be back on Jan. 2 – but without any guild writers providing Leno or O’Brien with monologues.
Of course, since Leno’s a former stand-up comic and O’Brien once wrote for “The Simpsons,” they may be able to come up with something on their own. We’re still waiting to hear if David Letterman’s company World Wide Pants has struck an independent deal with the Writers Guild. If so, he and Craig Ferguson (whose show is owned by WWP) would be returning to the air with their teams entact.
The late night shows suspended production due to the strike by the Writers Guild of America on November 5 and have aired repeats since.
“During the 1988 writers strike, Johnny Carson reluctantly returned to ‘The Tonight Show’ without his writers after two months,” says Rick Ludwin, executive VP of NBC’s Late Night & Primetime series. “Both Jay and Conan have supported their writers during the first two months of this WGA strike and will continue to support them. However, there are hundreds of people who will be able to return to work as a result of Jay’s and Conan’s decision.”
Thanks to Nikki Finke for posting the WGA rules on her site. Nikki’s the go-to person when you want the latest on the WGA strike front.
NOTICE TO ALL WGA MEMBERS WRITING FOR COMEDY/VARIETY SHOWS
The Council of the Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. and the Board of Directors of Writers Guild of America, West, Inc. (collectively the “Guild”), have adopted Strike Rules which will go into effect if the Guild calls a strike. The Strike Rules, among other provisions, prohibit Guild members from performing any writing services during a strike for any and all struck companies. This prohibition includes 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.
Rick Ludwin, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” executive producer Debbie Vickers and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” executive producer Jeff Ross participated in a conference call this morning to discuss the return.
There’s still some question as to what the shows will look like when they do come back if the strike is still on.
“We sort of made this decision (to go back on the air) recently and all our conversations have been on when (should we come back) and now we go to what is the show (going to be),” says Vickers.
Ross says it’s “unclear as to what we can can’t do. Obviously, shows may look a little different and we will fill time with things we haven’t done before.”
So will Conan and Jay even be allowed to write?
Vickers: “We’ll respect the guild.”
Ross: “Johnny (Carson) and Dave (Letterman) did monologues (during the 1988 strike). They were allowed to write and prepare their own material.”
But looking at the Guild guidelines, that might not be possible this time around. So what we’ll get instead would be a lot of chit-chat between the host and guests – if indeed they can get actors to cross the picket lines.
Yet we’d welcome one thing. A chance for talk show hosts to actually talk to their guests.
Ludwin says that Letterman’s ability as the studio head to negotiate independently of the group negotiations that have broken down between the guild and producers put them at a disadvantage.
“It’s not a level playing field,” Ludwin says, since the NBC shows won’t have a writing staff backing them up.
The trio says they expect both Leno and O’Brien to take advantage of their positions by taking shots at the networks.
While NBC opted not to make either Leno or O’Brien available for the call, we did get these lovely statements:
STATEMENT FROM JAY LENO
“This has been a very difficult six weeks for everybody affected by the writers strike. I was, like most people, hoping for a quick resolution when this began. I remained positive during the talks and while they were still at the table discussing a solution “The Tonight Show” remained dark in support of our writing staff. Now that the talks have broken down and there are no further negotiations scheduled I feel it’s my responsibility to get my 100 non-writing staff, which were laid off, back to work. We fully support our writers and I think they
understand my decision.”
Conan O’Brien Statement
“For the past seven weeks of the writers’ strike, I have been and continue to be an ardent supporter of the WGA and their cause. My career in television started as a WGA member and my subsequent career as
a performer has only been possible because of the creativity and integrity of my writing staff. Since the strike began, I have stayed off the air in support of the striking writers while, at the same time, doing everything I could to take care of the 80 non-writing staff members on Late Night.
Unfortunately, now with the New Year upon us, I am left with a difficult decision. Either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for
fourteen years, to lose their jobs. If my show were entirely scripted I would have no choice. But the truth is that shows like mine are hybrids, with both written and non-written content. An unwritten version of Late Night, though not desirable, is possible – and no one has to be fired.
So, it is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2nd. I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers and I’ll do the best version of Late Night I can under the circumstances. Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve.”
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