Late-Night Talk Shows in the Dark After Writers' Strike

"30 Rock" writer/star Tina Fey and "Saturday Night Live" star Seth Meyers picket in New York after producers refused to give writers a bigger share of the profits. (By Gary He -- Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

For those of you who think that what the world needs is fewer "Cavemen" episodes: You're in luck!

Hollywood writers of scripted TV series and movies went on strike yesterday after the studios and other production houses refused to give them a bigger piece of DVD profits and of revenue from distribution of TV series and films via so-called new media -- the Internet, etc.

That's right, within a relatively short time -- about eight more episodes on "Cavemen" -- the networks will run out of original episodes of their scripted series, leaving them with a prime-time landscape pocked with reality series, newsmagazines and reruns.

But, sadly, the imminent purging of "Cavemen" from the prime-time firmament comes at a cost -- your beloved live-ish late-night talk shows are all shuttered -- effective immediately.

Letterman, Leno, Stewart, Colbert, Conan, Ferguson, Kimmel -- all dark for the first day of the strike.

But unlike the last time the writers struck, nearly 20 years ago, when the late-night shows stayed dark for months, this time around, industry sources with knowledge of the situation say, they're expected to stay out for only a week or two. While the late-night stars want to show support for their writers, they also feel allegiance to the production staffers, who do not get paid if they do not work. That said, many of the talkers are continuing to pay their staff for the next couple of weeks, even if no show is produced. Should the shows return during the strike, it will be with formats that have been tinkered with to varying degrees, depending on how much the show relies on writers. Expect no scripted bits, but lots more celebrity interviews. Oh goody.

"We will go into repeats tonight," a spokesman for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" told The TV Column yesterday. "We're going to wait and see how the strike plays out," he said, which was pretty much the line we got from them all.

CBS and Comedy Central both notified the media that David Letterman's and Craig Ferguson's talk shows, as well as "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" would be in repeats all week.

NBC and ABC, on the other hand, played their hands more cautiously. They confirmed only that the Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel shows would air repeats last night.

Meanwhile, the Reporters Who Cover Television were chockablock with late-night celebrity sightings at picket lines on both coasts.

Trade paper the Hollywood Reporter, um, reported that picketers outside NBC's headquarters at 30 Rock in New York included "Saturday Night Live" star Seth Meyers and "Daily Show" faux correspondent John Oliver, who said Jon Stewart himself might show up on the picket line soon. ("SNL" exec producer Lorne Michaels told The Post's Tom Shales that "my turn will come" in re: picket duty at 30 Rock.) The Los Angeles Times spotted Jay Leno, in black leather jacket and blue jeans, outside NBC's West Coast headquarters in Burbank, delivering three boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which he proclaimed "writers' food."

Pretty much everyone sighted Tina Fey, who writes NBC's prime-time sitcom about a faux late-night series, picketing at 30 Rock near a giant inflatable rat.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company