NEW YORK – "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" will be back with their writers airing joke-filled new hours starting Wednesday, the shows' production company, Worldwide Pants, announced Friday.
An interim agreement between the Letterman-owned company and the Writers Guild of America will allow the full writing staffs for both shows to return to work, even as the Hollywood writers strike continues to shutter much TV and movie production. Both of those CBS late-night shows have been airing reruns since the strike began eight weeks ago.
"I am grateful to the WGA for granting us this agreement," Letterman said. "This is not a solution to the strike, which unfortunately continues to disrupt the lives of thousands. But I hope it will be seen as a step in the right direction."
The deal, which restores the two shows to business as usual, gives them an enormous advantage over their competition.
NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" as well as ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" had already announced they would resume Wednesday without benefit of their writing teams. Similarly, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert" planned to return writer-less on Monday, Jan. 7.
Resisting such an arrangement, Rob Burnett, president and CEO of Worldwide Pants, had actively sought an interim deal. Talks between studios and networks and the guild broke down Dec. 7, but the guild has been pursuing agreements with several small independent producers that would allow at least some members to return to work.
"We are appreciative that the leaders of the guild dealt with us reasonably and in good faith," Burnett said.
Much speculation has been focused on how the other late-night shows will fill their time deprived of monologues, skits and other written material. All the hosts — with the exception of NBC's Carson Daly, who returned to the air Dec. 3 — are members of the guild, making those without an interim deal subject to union rules that would severely limit what they can do.
A related issue centers on whether their shows will face a problem booking A-list guests, who may not be willing to cross a picket line.
Central to the contract dispute has been compensation for work distributed via the Internet and other digital media. The guild also has called for unionization of writers working on reality shows and animation.
When writers went on strike in 1988, only two late-night shows were affected: Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show and Letterman's "Late Night," both on NBC. Carson made a deal with the guild shortly after returning to the air, but Letterman went weeks without his writers' services before the strike was settled.