There is a bloody and violent conflict raging in Hollywood, one that is costing the American public dearly. Without the suspense of ‘Heroes’ to greet me at the end of every Monday or the over-the-top hilarity of ’30 Rock,’ I can feel my mind slipping into madness. Seriously, it is not that bad but things are not going to get better any time soon. Wait a moment, there’s a light shining in the distance. Some shows are returning! Does this mean the strike is almost over? Sorry, I must replace your hope with a dizzying kick to the groin.
Recently, shows such as ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien,’ ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ have started to air new episodes. The shows and their hosts only returned after networks threatened to fire their production staff and, even though they are returning, their writers are not. Conan O’Brien skipped his opening monologue in exchange for spinning his wedding ring on his desk. Each show still acknowledges their support for the strike. One may have noticed Conan O’Brien’s sweet beard over the last few nights. It was grown to support the writers, and possibly to prove that he possessed facial hair.
‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ and ‘The Late Late Show’ hosted by Craig Ferguson returned last week. Both shows are run by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants Production Company, which made a special deal with the Writer’s Guild of America and essentially gave in to its demands. Worldwide Pants is working against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, so Letterman, Ferguson and their production teams can work, keep their jobs and avoid crossing the picket line.
Now that the shows have returned, what does all this mean? We are going to get really unfunny versions of the shows we love. Think of it like World War II, where there was a shortage of rubber so the government went looking for substitutes. They created what would one day be known as silly putty, or, as I like to call it, rubber’s inbred cousin. Aside from Letterman and his special deal with the WGA, none of the new shows are returning with writers and the hosts are refusing to write new material. Be ready for tons of interviews and meaningless time wasters. The returning ‘Daily Show’ and ‘Colbert Report’ will be a failed, mutant clone of the programming we grew to love before the strike.
The trend of shows returning to TV will not help end the strike, but it will end with talk shows. The programs that have been brought back can limp along without writers. All you have to do is shove a few more interviews in and threaten to fire the production staff every couple of weeks in order to keep it on the air. We cannot forget that the hosts of each of the returning shows, minus Carson Daly, are charismatic and witty entertainers that can think on their feet and captivate an audience with very little help. I would watch Stephen Colbert interview a mossy tree stump because I am sure he would accuse it of being lazy and hating freedom. Imagine the cast of ‘Heroes’ attempting to improvise their show. The writers themselves barely know how to make sense of the show, let alone the actors saying the lines.
The fact is, despite a few shows returning, the writer’s strike will not end for months. Why should producers settle when they can make almost equal profits by presenting the American public with brain food like ‘American Gladiators?’ Lettermen’s company only made a deal because Lettermen himself is a writer and wanted to work against other producers. The strike will probably not end this season, or maybe even by the start of next season. For me it is time to buckle down, study hard and put my free time to good use. Just kidding, I am going to get wasted.