Latenight TV resumes tonight for the first time since the writers strike began Nov. 5. Thanks to David Letterman’s deal with the Writers Guild of America, the hosts will be divided into haves (with writers) and have-nots (without them).*
CBS’s Letterman and Craig Ferguson–who have writers–have an opportunity to make ratings inroads against NBC’s Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, who don’t. They also have a leg up with guests: With his labour deal in place, for example, Letterman could land guild sympathizer Robin Williams and dump overexposed Donald Trump, whose non-guild “Apprentice” starts airing (on NBC) this month.
Hosts at Comedy Central and ABC are also returning, but NBC has the most to lose. A-list stars who support the WGA will avoid NBC’s Leno and Conan O’Brien. So in lieu of booking say, George Clooney, Leno had to settle for Republican wannabe Mike Huckabee.
NBC suits are showing a huge amount of confidence in Leno/O’Brien’s standup prowess tonight. The network promoted their return heavily during the Patriots-Giants game on Saturday. Assuming Letterman’s writer team can clobber the ad-libbing Leno, this promotion could backfire. And if Letterman does obliterate Leno, how long will NBC continue to stiff the WGA?
*Letterman’s writers have promised to make the guild’s demands a frequent punchline until the strike is resolved.
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