Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien Return on January 2nd

     December 17, 2007

After two months of repeats, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” will resume broadcasting all-new episodes beginning Wednesday, January 2, 2008. The late night shows suspended production due to the strike by the Writers Guild of America on November 5 and have aired repeats since.

Both performers have issued the following statements:

Conan said, “For the past seven weeks of the writers’ strike, I have been and continue to be an ardent supporter of the WGA and their cause. My career in television started as a WGA member and my subsequent career as a performer has only been possible because of the creativity and integrity of my writing staff. Since the strike began, I have stayed off the air in support of the striking writers while, at the same time, doing everything I could to take care of the 80 non-writing staff members on Late Night. Unfortunately, now with the New Year upon us, I am left with a difficult decision. Either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for fourteen years, to lose their jobs. If my show were entirely scripted I would have no choice. But the truth is that shows like mine are hybrids, with both written and non-written content. An unwritten version of Late Night, though not desirable, is possible – and no one has to be fired. So, it is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2nd. I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers and I’ll do the best version of Late Night I can under the circumstances. Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve.”

Jay Leno said, “This has been a very difficult six weeks for everybody affected by the writers strike. I was, like most people, hoping for a quick resolution when this began. I remained positive during the talks and while they were still at the table discussing a solution “The Tonight Show” remained dark in support of our writing staff. Now that the talks have broken down and there are no further negotiations scheduled I feel it’s my responsibility to get my 100 non-writing staff, which were laid off, back to work. We fully support our writers and I think they understand my decision.”

What this means for the rest of Late Night is up in the air, but I’d imagine David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel will announce their return any moment. Also, what this does for the negotiations of the WGA with the networks and studios is ambiguous at best. The fact is, everything I’ve heard and read is that the WGA is serious at finding a fair middle ground to work with, and the networks and studios are treating them like shit. It just doesn’t seem like the studios want the strike to end anytime soon and until they’re willing to meet in the middle, this will continue to be a long and protracted battle. As a fan of scripted television…all I can say… this sucks. I’d like my favorite shows to return and I’d like everything to return to normal.

Let’s all cross our fingers.

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