so i've been looking forward to tonight for a few weeks now. you see, i learned back then that the late night mainstays - Leno, O'Brien, Letterman, Ferguson, Kimmel - were all going back on the air tonight after most of them had been off the air since the writer's strike started 2 months ago (most of them being members of the guild). how would the show be without writers? what would be said? would they pull it off? well i tuned in to Leno and Conan and, well, it was interesting.
Leno did the better job of the two in terms of pulling off a pretty normal show without writers, but that figures because the guy is a workhorse! in the midst of doing the Tonight Show he's still doing his own stand-up acts regularly and writing a good chunk of the monologue of every show. so he had his normal monologue, went to the audience for unscripted questions for the bit after the monologue (where you could really tell it was unscripted, as Leno was stumbling and/or rambling a bit with his answers, which was kind of nice to see - a natural, human reaction), and then moved on to the usual 3 guests.
Conan skipped his monologue, did bits on his new beard, what he's been up to for the past 2 months, and a wedding ring spinning contest, then had his usual 3 guests. he was pretty uncomfortable at times, way more so than Leno. with his uncomfortable moments and the obvious time-killer of the wedding ring spin, i'm wondering if Conan was trying to send a message to everyone that yeah, i'm back on the air, but i'm nothing without my writers. get them back or this is all you'll get out of me.
both guys gave ample time at the start of their shows to explain their situations - that they're members of the WGA but could not go on not working. they each have a staff of 50+ that AREN'T writers, and those people needed to work. of course, i'm sure that NBC was also breathing down their necks, but whatever. the sad thing is, the WGA is now picketing both of them.
i'm going to try and tune in to at least the start of each program to see how things are progressing over the next few days/weeks, because it's kind of interesting. hour-long late night television unscripted. these guys aren't particularly loved now by either side (the companies that employ them or their writer's guild). we'll see what happens.
on the flip side of things, i heard that Letterman and Ferguson both got their writers back due to some loophole. i guess CBS doesn't actually "own" the two shows, but rather Letterman's company Worldwide Pants does... so the WGA made a separate deal with Worldwide Pants that allowed the writers of those shows to go back to work.
kudos to Leno and Conan for returning on the air with no writers. good luck to both of them. now the next thing to watch out for is the return of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which are both apparently coming back next Monday - sans writers.