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Leno and Letterman to return to work (with updates, statements)

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…but as you’ve heard, Letterman’s company is seeking its own deal with writers, whereas Leno will — what? — wing it? In any case, the example of Letterman, seeking to come to accord with the writers, gives new creedence to that oldest of industrial-era labor observations that “owning the means of production” — perhaps literally, in Hollywood’s case (well, no, there’s distribution, too,) is where the power lies:

From the NY Times:

Leno and O’Brien Shows to Resume

By BILL CARTER

NBC officially announced today that its two late-night stars, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, will return to the air on Jan. 2 even if the strike against networks and studios by entertainment writers is not resolved by then.

The two hosts would be forced to perform without writers, and might have to face opposition from the Writers Guild, which has thus far urged the late-night hosts to support the strike by staying off the air. However, the tone of that opposition has softened in recent weeks after the hosts began paying the salaries of the nonwriting staff members of their shows.

CBS’s late night star, David Letterman, is pursuing an interim agreement with writers that would allow him to return on Jan. 2 with his writers. Mr. Letterman is positioned to make such a deal because his production company, WorldWide Pants, owns both his show and the one that follows on CBS, which has as its host Craig Ferguson.

This weekend Mr. Letterman’s representatives said they had been negotiating with the guild for that interim agreement and were hopeful they would be successful, but the deal was not yet settled and at least one representative of a late-night show said the some members of the guild leadership might have concerns about making a separate arrangement with Mr. Letterman.

More at the Times’ website…

And breaking later this selfsame day, a statement from Conan O’Brien, about his return to latenight TeeVee:

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.

So, it is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2nd. 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.”

and here’s Leno’s somewhat more ambiguous statement:

“This has been a very difficult six weeks for everybody affected by the writers strike. 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 “The Tonight Show” remained dark in support of our writing staff. 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.”

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