DAVID BIANCULLI

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November 30, 2007 - Strike Movement, and Late-Night Strike Moves
November 30, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
The newest round of strike talks completed its fourth day yesterday, and finally there was some news. The studios proposed what they termed a "New Economic Partnership" with the Writers Guild of America, with a new media package supposedly inceasing current compensation packages by 10 percent. The WGA is taking time to analyze the proposal, and talks now are scheduled to resume on Tuesday, December 4.

This seems to be progress, and definitely is movement. Even that postponement of talks, though, all but guarantees that the strike, which began on November 5, will carry into its second month.

And while prime time shows, awaiting reaction from the WGA faction, are in a wait-and-see mode - soon to be a wait-and-don't-see mode - the late-night picture is a little different. Moves are being made, on and off the air, that say a lot about the programs and the talents at the center of them.

David Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants company controls both his Late Show and Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show, announced early on that the staffs of both CBS shows would continue to be paid, out of his pocket, during the strike. That's a really classy act, coming from a really classy guy.

Conan O'Brien

Now comes word that Conan O'Brien, who spent time as a writer on The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live before inheriting Letterman's old Late Night NBC series, has made a similar pledge to his staff. NBC is scheduled to lay off the staffs at both Late Night and The Tonight Show today - but O'Brien recently has promised to keep his people's paychecks coming, even though NBC owns the show.

Another class act. Another classy guy.

Leno hasn't reacted the same way, which means after tonight, the Tonight staffers could not only be laid off, but no longer playing the going-through-the-motions booking wars that still are going on, almost perversely, behind the scenes.

It's a case of TV talks shows at their most existential: If guests are booked on Ferguson or O'Brien, but the show isn't produced because of the strike, did they ever appear at all? The answer is no. But the booking game continues, for now, with two glaring exceptions, both of them from NBC.

All this week, NBC has scheduled a "theme week" of Tonight Show reruns, presenting shows in which Leno first interviewed now-superstar celebrities. Wednesday, for example, was a seven-year-old show in which Matt Damon showed up to publicize The Talented Mr. Ripley. But the rest of the show, aging poorly and keyed to such now-dull topics as the 2000 Super Bowl, hardly made a strong case for The Talented Mr. Leno.

Carson Daly

The biggest late-night move, though, is NBC's announcement that Last Call with Carson Daly, the late-late show starting at 1:35 a.m. ET, will defy the strike and begin televising first-run installments beginning Monday. (Daly is not a member of the Writers Guild of America.)

This is news for two reasons. One, it means that Carson Daly's show is still on the air, which some may find shocking. Two, it means the first TV host to break the solidarity in the late-night arena is a guy named Carson.

Somehow, that just doesn't seem right.

Nor does Daly's reported email to friends, family and acquaintances, asking them to submit freebie jokes for possible use in next week's monologues, since he won't have writers. But, in the spirit of harmony and helpfulness, here's one anyway.

Q: "How does a strike-busting TV host get around town?"

A: "Easy. He raises his arm and catches a scab."

 

3 Comments

sue said:

When This Week with George Stephanopoulos first had to deal with a week without the "Sunday funnies", clips from the week's comedy shows, he asked on air for readers to send in their own clips of news parody. Since that first week, its never been mentioned again, and the Sunday funnies bit has just been skipped. I don't know whether that's because the audience partipication was dreadful or whether George and the crew were uncomfortable with the notion of circumventing the strike.

Comment posted on November 30, 2007 11:47 PM


sue said:

this is off topic but I can't find anyone who is commenting on it, and I think Dave would appreciate it. The five day winner on Jeopardy this week is a TV writer. I know it was pre-taped but its mighty funny that she's making the dough on this particular week.

Comment posted on November 30, 2007 11:49 PM


Eileen Morgan said:

I have always loved Dave Letterman and his smart style of humor. I'm glad you gave him "kudos" for his generosity to his employees. I'm sure Dave truly appreciates what his writers go through to make him look so good.

Comment posted on December 3, 2007 10:14 AM

 
 
 
 
 
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