The Writers Guild of America reached an agreement with David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, that will allow guild writers to come back to work on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” when both shows return to air on Wednesday.
In a move clearly intended to show that it has been the reasonable party after strike talks collapsed three weeks ago, the WGA released a statement Friday saying Worldwide Pants “accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7.”
Letterman is unique among late night hosts in that his production company owns both his and Craig Ferguson’s show, allowing him to cut a separate deal with the WGA. The deal gives CBS’s latenight hosts a big advantage over the competition when they return en masse next week. NBC’s Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel are all set to return without their writers. Not only will Letterman have a scripted monologue and top-10 list, he’ll also be able to book A-list stars eager to flog their movie releases without crossing a WGA picket line.
Stunned when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers walked away from the talks three weeks ago, divide-and-conquer in late night has become a key element of the WGA’s strategy. Worldwide Pants had been trying to do a deal with the WGA since the first day of the strike, but only now was able to motivate guild representation to get a deal done. In its statement, the WGA said, “It’s time for NBC Universal to step up to the plate and negotiate a company-wide deal that will put Jay Leno, who has supported our cause from the beginning, back on the air with his writers.”
The Letterman deal will likely be the WGA’s last flourish before the Director’s Guild of America begins talks with the Hollywood studios in January. Many have predicted a DGA-negotiated deal will end up a template for both the writers and actors.
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