23:19 PST: I'm watching the first Daily Show of the WGA strike. The first 15 minutes were Jon Stewart talking and telling jokes. I'm guessing he's writing his own material, and I'm not sure how the WGA will feel about it. Every single joke was about the WGA strike itself. Also, the pacing of the jokes felt a bit slower, though they were reasonably funny.
The second half so far is an interview with a professor of labor relations from Cornell.
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For those who don't know, Letterman owns his own production company, Worldwide Pants, and he cut a deal with the WGA to temporarily agree to the WGA's demands for the duration of the dispute in exchange for allow writers to work for him, and so he's back on the air with the WGA's official blessing.
The other late night shows have gone back on the air without writers. Their hosts, who support the strike, say that they've agreed to come back on the air to save the jobs of their non-writing staff. Conan killed lots of time talking about his beard and even spinning his wedding ring on his desk. Leno, on the other hand, wrote his own monologue and still pulled better ratings than Letterman. The WGA and NBC have been arguing about their contracts allow hosts to write their own monologues.
(Carson Daly made light of the situation by setting up a "joke hotline" for people to call in with jokes for him to tell, in the absence of writers. The WGA was most certainly not amused with that...)
And so I'm curious what the WGA will think about Stewart and
Colbert going back on the air.
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23:30 PST: In the hand-off to Colbert, Colbert admonished Stewart for how prepared he was and threatened to turn him in. And now he just introduced the show with, "TONIGHT: ............ THEN: ............ This is the Colbert Report!" :P
23:47 PST: Colbert talks about how he's being consistent because he's always been anti-union, followed by lots of clips of him talking about how bad unions are. He's been killing time with lots of flashback clips. "I don't need my writers, which brings me to tonight's Word:" ... and there's no Word. :P
23:57 PST: Colbert's guest was Andrew Sullivan, who talked about why he liked Obama. One interesting argument Sullivan made was that Obama's race is a plus in international relations, because someone in a third world country with preconceptions about the American leadership would see Obama's face and immediately have a different view.
00:04 PST: Colbert also had a second guest who's an author of a book about labor relations. Interesting how he's actually going over time by a couple of minutes.
Conclusion: The first shows back have been pretty decent without writers, but it'll be interesting to see how things will be as this keeps going on. In particular, I imagine the whole point of the WGA making a deal with Letterman is to give him an advantage over the competition and showing the value of writers, but that advantage hasn't translated into ratings so far... I know that in my case, there's the ironic situation of my actually being more interested in watching precisely BECAUSE there are no writers...