Tonight's return of late night television is voyueristic for reasons that extend beyond "first show back" status since the writers' strike launched a slew of angry slogans in early November. (Holy crap! Remember November? Tila Tequila hadn't even found the love of her life yet!)
First off, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are playing with a full deck since World Wide Pants struck a deal last week to get writers back into the fold. Time off aside, things should be pretty smooth for both -- and with the annoyingly hyperactive Robin Williams as Letterman's guest, might even make Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien the more interesting viewing experiment, at least for this evening.
Are Leno and Conan allowed to pen their own monologues? (Reports are hazy on this.) Will both shows be invaded Bill Maher-style by angry writers who want to make a grand statement about network tyranny? If forgotten host Jimmy Kimmel isn't funny with writers, how badly will he flounder without them? And will Leno guest, Mike Huckabee, subliminally cross his arms constantly in order to wink at conservative evangelicals and further anger the Catholic League?
Bottom line: How is this delicate dance going to play out?
According to TV Guide, the Writers Guild of America revealed plans to picket scribe-less shows by Leno, Conan and Kimmel, as well as "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" (both returning Monday with new episodes) for as long as its necessary. The WGA maintains the move isn't meant to batter the hosts (after all, some of the picketers will essentially be badmouthing their direct bosses and WGA supporters), but instead the bloated networks they work for. They're also going to give Letterman and Ferguson some serious love by pressuring Screen Actors Guild members/guests to appear only on those two shows.
Yeah, if you're Leno or Conan, it might be a bit difficult to not have hard feelings about that one. "Hey, Letterman has Johnny Depp, Steve Carell and Jessica Alba on tonight! Leno has ... a guy with the nation's largest collection of Star Trek pogs."
So Letterman has the writers. Letterman's getting the guests. Both should equal bigger ratings -- though again, the trainwreck possibilities for the others might be worth watching in the short term.
One thing is certain, though. If Leno, Conan and Kimmel don't take the Letterman favoritism too hard, you'd expect all hosts to use their natural soapbox and call for an end to the strike. With bitter writers in tow, Letterman might even have a grand opportunity to really bludgeon the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and rally the left-behind troops more. Letterman isn't known to play nice, after all.
FYI: Letterman's guests for the rest of the week are as follows: Thursday, Bill Maher, "Juno" star Ellen Page, and performers from the Broadway musical "Young Frankenstein." Friday features Donald Trump.
UDPATE! UPDATE!: The Associated Press is reporting that Hilary Clinton joins Letterman tonight in a segment taped from Cedar Rapids. Comics Bob Saget and Dwayne Perkins and musicians Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding are Conan O'Brien's first-night guests.
Labels: late night shows, writers strike