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It's Time for David Letterman to Come Back - And Jon, and Conan, and All the Rest
December 10, 2007  | By David Bianculli
So long as both sides were at least attempting to negotiate an end to the month-long strike by the Writers Guild of America, it made sense to support the shutdown of most scripted shows, wait patiently, and hope for the best. But the best isn't happening, so it's time for viewers to make some demands of their own: Bring back Dave. And Jon, and Conan, and all the rest.

Friday's cosmic meltdown of communication between representatives of the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers all but guarantees this strike will continue not only into the new year, but probably past the spring thaw.

Writers want to hang tough until actors and directors, whose contracts are up in June, can join them and flex greater strength together. Networks already have a midseason avalanche of unscripted and off-the-shelf fare to roll down the pike, so it's a game of chicken.

A stupid game, which, like the last strike in 1988, may take more than half a year to play.

For fans of many scripted series, this delay will be inconvenient but not devastating. When Heroes finally starts up again, whenever that is, it'll be picking up about where it left off. But every week that goes by without a Late Show with David Letterman or a Daily Show with Jon Stewart is another week in which viewers are robbed of jokes, insights and a valuable part of the national conversation.

I'm not kidding. We need these kidders - now more than ever.

The hosts of most of these shows - not only Letterman and Conan O'Brien, but Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel, too - have shown lots of class by dipping deeply into their own pockets to keep staffers on the payroll. But with both sides away from the negotiating table, and pouting and posturing like petulant children, not even talk-show millionaires should be expected to bankroll the status quo with no end in sight.

Johnny Carson

During the last WGA strike, in 1988, three months went by before NBC's Johnny Carson, the 800-pound gorilla of late night, returned with new Tonight Show programs, using union writers who had negotiated separate contracts. Three weeks later, NBC's Late Night with David Letterman returned, too, with fresh shows, but without writers.

At this point, the WGA should offer special dispensation to shows whose output is topical, and whose lost shows are irretrievable. Potential weapons of mass destruction have just not been found again, this time in Iran - and we don't get to see Jon Stewart's incredulous double take or hear Letterman's caustic Top 10 List.

Mike Huckabee has taken the lead among Republicans in Iowa. Mike Huckabee. The first caucuses are a month away, and we're not laughing at them nearly enough. Which means, in a way, we're not taking them seriously enough, either.

These shows don't just make us laugh. When the monologues and Top 10 lists and daily news deconstructions are at their best, they also make us think.

And I for, one, think it's time for the hosts to step up and come back. Cut a deal, agree to honor any eventual agreement terms, and get back in the game. The WGA is owed a lot of loyalty and consideration, but so is the USA.

Right now, we need you even more.




Jared said:

Agreed completely. What will Christmas be without watching Dave knock a meatball off a tree with a football? Paul's Cher impression, the Lone Ranger story, Darlene Love... I'm 25 and I don't remember the last Christmas I had without seeing all of the above.

Comment posted on December 10, 2007 11:31 AM

melinda said:

getting through the spam blocker is a challenge. at this point I just want to see if it's possible

Comment posted on December 11, 2007 6:47 AM

melinda said:

Yes, bring back late night before it's too late.
I suspect the timing here. Is it remotely possible that the group that stole two elections and started a war on no evidence could tweak the start date of a looming strike to get thinking put on hold for the election cycle? Or merely have a hand in making sure it's not resolved quickly?
People under forty don't watch a lot of network news, and it's clear that late night watchers are better informed voters... it would be in your best interests to have these potential voters sidelined if you had a dubious platform. I don't understand why the other fake news, Fox, is on the air. Do they hire non-union writers?

Comment posted on December 11, 2007 7:01 AM

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