The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Night With Conan O'Brien will return with new episodes starting Jan. 2, according to a statement released by NBC on Monday (Dec. 17). The late-night shows had suspended production on Nov. 5 in the wake of the Writers Guild of America strike and have been airing repeats since, putting non-writing crew members whom both hosts had earlier agreed to compensate themselves out of work.
Said O'Brien in a statement: ''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.... 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....
''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.''
In his own statement, Leno cited the fact that talks between the WGA and AMPTP had broken down again on Dec. 7 as a factor in his decision: ''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.... 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.''
Meanwhile, David Letterman (whose Worldwide Pants oversees not only The Late Show but also The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson) has been pursuing his own agreement with the WGA, independent of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. According to the New York Times, that deal would allow Letterman and Ferguson to work with their regular team of scribes and get back on the air.