Late-night television will finally be relevant again tonight as five major nocturnal talk shows return to the air for the first time since the Writers Guild of America strike began in early November.
Over the holidays, David Letterman's production company Worldwide Pants, which owns and produces both Late Show With David Letterman and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, signed a deal with the WGA that ended the walkout of both shows' writers.
Because the two Worldwide Pants shows are not owned by the network that broadcasts them, they were able to negotiate with the WGA separately. The WGA announced on Friday that it had reached an agreement with Worldwide Pants that basically met all of the guilds' demands in the feud with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), specifically in the area of profits made in the new media sector.
"The AMPTP has not yet been a productive avenue for an agreement," WGA presidents wrote to members. "As a result, we are seeking deals with individual signatories. The Worldwide Pants deal is the first. We hope it will encourage other companies, especially large employers, to seek and reach agreements with us. Companies who have a WGA deal and Guild writers will have a clear advantage."
The deal, the specific terms of which were not disclosed, is allegedly the same proposal that was to be offered to the AMPTP before the group broke off negotiations last month.
In mid-December, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien announced they would be returning to work today on their respective shows, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien, both of which are owned by NBC. The pair of programs will move forward without their writers, which will force the hosts to perform off the cuff with no prewritten material.
ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live also returns tonight without writers, and Comedy Central previously announced that its two hits, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, would go back to new programming on January 7 without writers. The WGA is expected to picket all returning late-night shows except for the two owned by Worldwide Pants.