Nine weeks into the Writers’ Guild of America strike, and we’re finally feeling the pinch with the horrifying news that the Golden Globes won’t be announced at the glittering event around which we all build our social calendars. There was little choice for the Globes after the WGA made it clear it would picket the ceremony, thus making it very unlikely that any of the actors invited would cross the picket line to get inside. So a very dull-sounding news conference is what we get. Sure, there’ll be photographers there, but without glamorously-dressed famous people congratulating themselves, well, it hardly seems worth it.
It’s not all bad news, though. A number of late night talk shows have recently reappeared. Letterman led the way after his production company negotiated an exemption with the WGA that enabled his full writing staff to return. But he’s the only one to have the Guild’s blessing. Leno’s Tonight Show, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report are back, but without their writers.
Which may be a struggle. Jay Leno has already raised the ire of the Guild by writing and performing his own monologue, and a breathtakingly dry debate over the distinction between writer/performers and performer/writers has ensued. The details are an insomniac’s dream; it’s enough to say that Leno thinks if he’s the one performing it, he can write it, and the Guild disagrees. Stay tuned, if you can bear it, to see how that thriller plays out.
Leno has bigger things to worry about, anyway. Since he doesn’t have a Letterman-esque exemption, the Guild is continuing to picket his studios. So any guest who agrees to appear on his show has to cross a picket line to get there. Which could rule out performers sympathetic to the writers, and politicians reluctant to fire up the unions on the eve of an election. And that leaves… not much. Already Leno and fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel have filled a segment by appearing as guests on each other’s shows, despite the fact they air on different networks. The question for Leno is how long viewers will tune in for filler when Letterman, without picket lines outside, has his pick of the A-List guests.
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It’s not all about the writers though, argues Leno. He says he’s coming back to save the jobs of his 160 staff who have been out of work for the last couple of months. They are the unfortunate casualties of this strike – the people who work in the offices, in the control rooms, and on the studio floors. They had no say in the decision, and while some of them have been getting paid by generous hosts like Leno, Stewart and Colbert, many of them have been forced to sacrifice wages for a cause that is not their own. Now, they’re working again, and our shows are back.
And the best thing about that? Leno, Colbert, and Stewart, and no writers. We’re going to get to see how talented these guys really are.