David Letterman and Craig Ferguson won't be sweating their jokes when they return to the air with new shows on Jan. 2. Today, the WGA and Letterman's Worldwide Pants announced an independent agreement that will allow The Late Show and The Late Late Show to go back to work with their scribes in tow. Other talk shows announced their return dates before Christmas, including The Tonight Show (Jan. 2) and The Daily Show (Jan. 7), but without their scribes. Since Worldwide Pants owns both of the yakkers on CBS's late-night schedule, it was able to secure a unique pact with the WGA.
In a statement released today, Letterman sounded optimistic and hopeful that the agreement would serve as a jump-start for further negotiations between the WGA and the companies. ''We're happy to be going back to work and particularly pleased to be doing it with our writers. 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 WGA, meanwhile, used the Worldwide Pants pact to take a swipe at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for the breakdown in talks Dec. 7. ''Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations,'' according to a WGA statement. ''Today's agreement dramatically illustrates that the Writers Guild wants to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously, a fair and reasonable deal can be reached quickly.''
The AMPTP responded to the interim agreement on Dec. 28 with a statement that said: ''While it is good news for viewers that the jokes will be back on the late-night shows, the biggest joke of all appears to be the one the WGA's organizers are pulling on working writers. The people in charge at WGA have insisted on increasing their own power by prevailing on jurisdictional issues such as reality, animation and sympathy strikes. Yet today the WGA made an interim agreement to send writers back to work that by definition could not have achieved these jurisdictional goals gains that would at a minimum require the company making an agreement to actually produce reality and animation programming. WGA's organizers are also misrepresenting the fact that Worldwide Pants is an AMPTP member. Today's agreement is just the latest indication that the WGA's organizers may not have what it takes to achieve an industry-wide deal that will create a strong and sustainable economic future for writers and producers alike.''
The AMPTP also released its own strike update last week by claiming the strike ''has now cost working writers more in salary and benefits than the WGA's organizers ever expected to gain from the strike.'' According to a running ticker on the AMPTP website, the union has lost more than $151 million by continuing to walk the picket line.