Thursday, January 03, 2008

Leno and Letterman are back

Letterman and Leno are back.

Letterman now has writers. Letterman can now get the big guests guilt free. Letterman’s quips are as funny and inspired as ever.

And Leno still kicks his ass.

It’s time to call it, ladies and gents. After fourteen straight years of winning night after night after night and now finishing first with his writers tied behind his back -- Jay Leno is the king of late night. CBS will claim it’s still too early to make that call, and the public just needs to become more aware of Dave, but who are we kidding? Give Letterman the Emmys, give Leno the crown. And CBS should save that spin for Katie Couric.

Personally, I question the wisdom of the WGA's decision to grant Letterman’s company a waiver allowing his (and Craig Ferguson’s) writers to go back to work. At a time when the Guild is trying desperately to maintain unity, letting some writers go back to work while everyone else can’t is potentially very damaging. And it’s not like morale is at an all-time high anyway. Despite those stirring chants.

Supposedly the big rationale for the waiver is that it will lift Letterman's ratings, and NBC-Universal-GE will see its long time franchise, THE TONIGHT SHOW finally collapse after 40 golden years and so to avoid that calamity the network will press the other death stars to make a settlement. Considering Letterman's track record that feels a little like Wile E. Coyote sending away for the ACME Strike Solution Kit.

And yet, I shall continue to follow the marching orders. I’ll be out there again Monday with my trusty sign (unless I have jury duty in which case I’ll long to be out there with my trusty sign). I’ll be picketing the Golden Globes (of course I do that every year whether there’s a strike or not). And I hope that any member who, like me, is uneasy with this waiver move will still consider the bigger issues and stand strong with the rest of us.

Oh, and how dumb is NBC? How do they recognize and reward Jay Leno, this juggernaut who has preserved their franchise beyond their wildest dreams? By booting him out in 2009.

These are the people we’re negotiating against. Hang in there members. And Dave.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

supposedly Leno's numbers on the first day back were much higher than dave's.

i can figure out why. i never watch Leno but i taped Dave while I watched Leno live.
because i was curious to see what he was gonna do.
i was hoping it would be a train wreck and wanted to see Leno hopping around trying to improv.


Doug Walsh said...

Maybe this is generational (I doubt it, I'm only 32, not 19) but I must admit that I haven't heard any Leno/Letterman watercooler talk in, oh, about 8 years.

Seriously. I know of them just like I know there's a show on during the day called "The View" but I can't admit to watching any network Late Night since the 90's. And really don't know anybody who does.

It took the recent strike-related discussion with these two to even put them back on my radar.

Jake Hollywood said...

People tend to gravitate toward Leno and away from Letterman, because of Jay's apparent "niceness." He doesn't tend to deliberately offend people (well, except me--more in that in a sec), he's affable and of course Hollywood really likes him, he's one of them, an insider.

But I think the guy is a snake. and he's proving it. On the surface he says he supports "the writers." Yeah, he paid them for a few weeks, came out to the line (I bet he's stopped doing that now) and handed out food, and told us all how much he's with us.

And then, after being adamantly informed weeks before he was "forced" back to work, that writing his monologues were a WGA no-no he goes and writes and performs his own monologue the first night back.

His defense was, of course inspired by his first guest on that show: Mike Huckabee. He of the "I didn't know they were striking writers, I thought they were street advertisers. Besides, this is my chance to emulate Bill Clinton and jam with the Tonight Show Band. Can't pass that up, can I?

But the Huckabee defense falls flat when being expressly being told again by the WGA that Leno writing his own monologue is a BIG no-no, he goes and does it again (see tonight's show), this time without any faux remorse...

I telling ya, the guy is a fucking snake. The worst kind of scab there is: one who pretends to be with you, but one who stabs you in the back while you're standing near him.

The WGA should toss this asshole and protest HIM and NBC without mercy.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Not knowing the situation intimately (as I am from Europe) I must say I don't understand why a union would give one talkshow host a free pass and another not. I'd say, morally that gives the other host the right to write his own monologues. So he gets booted - I bet he feels the boot is already in there. "Oh, you want me to fail against Letterman? So go ahead and throw me out; proof te me you don't want me!" I thought writers understood people?

Having said that I almost never watch Lenom and when I do, I zap through the monologue. The guy doesn't need writers, he needs an editor.

Anonymous said...

To put it bluntly, Jay is awful. After all these years of doing the show, he has not improved one bit. He is stiff as hell, can't interview anyone worth a damn, his sketch work is pathetic and his monologue belongs at some small time comedy club. Letterman is a pro, a great adlibber, does an intelligent interview and his sketch work is iownderful (Remember "Dave & Steve's Gay Vacation" with Steve Martin?) Why people continue to watch Leno is beyond me. Maybe the answer is to put Carson Shows back on. Still one of the all time class acts in entertainment history.

Bitter Animator said...

I was wondering what you'd make of the Letterman situation. Like you, I can't help feeling it's not a good move. It splits the writers and also (I think) sends a message that individual deals can bring more and more writers out of the strike. And, while those individual deals might be good or okay right now, each one weakens the union as a whole and leaves future negotiations effectively private and without defined boundaries.

It sounds like 'divide and conquer' to me.

Anonymous said...

Leno's ratings are better because people like fluff and stupidity.

For 26 years, Letterman has had a following among hipsters and cool people, like Carson did. When his show is good, it's great. Funny and dry and dark all at the same time. He is Carson's rightful heir to the late night throne.

Leno's show is like watching "Entertainment Tonight" with a live audience and band. He attracts the "Dancing With The Stars" crowd. My grandparents, who are now dead, watched him every night.

Anonymous said...

"Leno's ratings are better because people like fluff and stupidity."

Right on the nose, Sparky.

I'd say I'm just watching Letterman for the duration, but I've been just watching Letterman for many, many years, except when Leno has Dame Edna on, and as Barry Humphries is recovering from emergency apppendix surgery this past Sunday in Sydney, he won't be on the show anytime soon. I watched a bit of Conan to see how he was filling time. Very poorly was the answer.

I see Howie Mandell is crossing the line to Leno tonight. And his excuse is?

Dave said...

I'll preface this by saying that I wouldn't watch Leno on a bet and have been a fan of Dave's since the morning show (not to mention my small bit of notoriety over on

That said, I think the reason people prefer Jay to Dave is simple: Jay works his ass off to keep his show moving and lively. Stuff happens. I don't think it's good stuff, and it certainly isn't to my taste, but he gets the big name guests, does pre-tapes, and seems to have fun.

Dave, on the other hand, has way too many nights when he just seems like he can't be bothered. More often than not, the writing is lazy and uninspired (I blame the Stangels and Dave), featuring tired and overdone bits that are beaten into the ground ad nauseum, and nothing near the innovation and sense of danger that he had on Late Night.

Dave's place in broadcasting history is firm, but there are nights I just can't imagine why he still does the show.

Anonymous said...

I think it's too soon to write off Letterman's rating potential in this strike. I think a lot of people watched Leno to see how he could handle a show off the cuff, but that curiosity will wear off. An extemporaneous Leno combined with a lack of big name guests could well put the Tonight Show in trouble a month from now.

Cap'n Bob said...

I rarely watch any TV after 8 o'clock because I have to get up early, but when I do I watch Leno. Not the whole show, just the monologue. I think his standup work is superior to anyone's on the air. I do like Dave's top ten lists, however.

Ken, it was my impression that Leno decided to quit the show, not that he was being fired. Can you clarify this?

The idea of letting some writers back and not others is insane.

Finally, on an unrelated note, HOO-RAY for Iowa for chosing Obama over Hitlery. It's nice to see some sanity in the world.

Anonymous said...

I watched both shows for the first time in a long time because I was curious to see how they would handle their first night back.

To me if you didn't know there was WGA strike you wouldn't have been able to tell from Leno's monologue. If you like his humor then it would have fit in well with any of his past shows. I was actually surprised how long it went on, you'd think he would want to save some material. I think the fact he still does a ton of stand-up appearances will serve him well during the strike.

I'm not sure why there's so much anti-Leno hostility. Sure he's not an edgy hipster, but he works his ass off and is a genuinely nice guy. He was stuck sitting next to me in a green room a few years ago and was very personable, no attitude and patiently took pictures with everyone who asked. My biggest complaint about his monologue was the constant rim shots by the band. It was more annoying than laugh track.

Frankly I was more disappointed with Letterman. For someone who has a full compliment of well rested WGA writers I thought his monologue was really weak and found his constant mugging for the camera lazy and pretentious.

On the plus side I thought Robin Williams was in good form (maybe because I haven't seen him or any of his movies for a long time) and made the show worth watching.

For me the only pleasant surprise in late night in the past 10 years has been Kimmel. Sure, not all of his stuff works, I hate the Cousin Sal bits for example, but at least he brings a different vibe to the genre and I like his understated humor. His "Week in Unnecessary Censorship" is funny and original. (Or at least it was when he had writers)

Anonymous said...

being in Australia i couldnt care about who won the ratings... personally i cant stand jay, but i i guess i hate at least half the comedy that you guys love so i probably just dont get it..

it doesnt matter that dave has split the union or what not, at least he thinks they are worth it... Jay isnt any better (actually worse) the vince vaughan, who you so appreciated when he said he would feel fine punching up scripts during the strike... i dont know how he can justify it at all...

Gail Renard said...

I adore Dave and always have, but I think his having settled helps the writers' cause, not hinders it. The WGA and its members are united in what they want. The studios, though standing firm-ish, are a collection of individuals and thus will be a lot easier to divide and conquer. Letterman's agreeing to WGA terms is the first chink in the studios' armour. Mark my words, other studios will follow, especially the smaller ones who will go under unless they start production again. And I can't wait to see the Oscars... if they take place... without any scripted material or cleared clips (that agreement also ended in November, remember?) What self-respecting, paranoid actor, even if he/she crosses a picket line, will want to speak to the world without a script? Are you kidding? They can't even say "hello" without lines. And without the televised Oscars and hype, you can kiss goodbye this year's films and their profits. Patience, my friends. I sincerely believe your position is stronger than you think!

Anonymous said...

I still don't quite understand all the deals about how these shows are on the air; and being in the uk I can't really watch them. (other then the odd clip on you tube.)

Having said that, I often read this late night jokes page and based only on those written words I laugh a lot more at Leno's stuff then any of the others.

Anonymous said...

the best thing about Leno is that if you didn't understand the joke (which is really an indictment of your intellect, and almost impossible) he'll explain it to you for the next 2 minutes. He is terrible. Unwatchable. The most obvious jokes imaginable, but still explained to you. Wow.

Anonymous said...

How is it that the daytime soaps are still shooting? Are those writers non-union?

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Letterman didn't get a waiver, but, that his independent production company "Worldwide Pants" actually signed a new contract with WGA agreeing to all the terms.

This is a big deal. WGA said it was willing to make deals one on one with producers and independent companies, and Letterman shows real chutzpah by being the first to make the deal.

Leno would have made a deal too, except he doesn't produce or own his show. His is an employee of NBC, and any deal would have to be made with NBC/Universal.

Let's hope that as time goes on, more indies will make the deal. Until then, everyone needs to hang together, or as Ben Franklin said,"we shall most certainly hang separetely."

Power to the Pencil!

CarolMR said...

According to the New York Times' TV Decoder, on their first night back Leno had 5.8 million viewers to Letterman's 4.7 million.

Anonymous said...

Actually Leno has pulled it off, if he's writing his own material, he's doing a pretty good job with it and he and Kevin are improvising their truly good natures and it's beginning to look a lot like big points for Tonight, good for Jay! I just hope he's not doing to the detriment of the WGA.

As for jury duty, a lot smarter people than me have expressed the clear desire that given a choice between Jury duty and a two hour session with a fat-fingered Proctologist with advanced Parkinsons, they hope there's at least current magazines in the waiting room.

Anonymous said...

You can't tell after just one day. On the first day everyone just returns to whatever show they used to watch. The interesting part is whether people will switch over the next week or two.

Robert Rouse said...

There is something about Leno that I have never been able to stomach and after I read about him hiding in a closet to listen in on an exec meeting, it only cemented my distaste in him. As for Dave, I believe he might be an acquired taste. Growing up in Indianapolis, I was able to watch Dave as a local weatherman predicting hail the size of canned hams. What some people see as laziness, I see as great characterization. Dave has always been able to make me laugh and has never been afraid to let a guest have it with both barrels if he thinks they deserve it. Leno's a pussy.

Dad Solo said...

Of course Leno's ratings were still higher. They always will be.

Same dynamic that has SNL still on the air while Mr. Show with Bob and David lasted only 3 1/2 seasons.

I honestly think Jay is the least funny 'funny' person on TV. Maybe ever. But my tastes have only very occasionally been mainstream.

Dimension Skipper said...

I generally support the writers (in a "sending out good vibes" kind of way) in their strike endeavors, but mostly I just wish for as fair and speedy a settlement as possible so that all the good folks whose jobs depend either directly or indirectly on scripted show biz can get back to their livelihoods and the rest of us can get our favorite shows back.

So without taking sides (beyond that very general comment) and simply as a for-what-it's-worth in an informational sense (admittedly, possibly nothing) I simply wanted to direct folks to this editorial I just found over at Slice of SciFi:

Support For WGA Slipping?

Generally, most of the entertainment-related sites I visit are overwhelmingly pro-writers without even a hint of anything negative. So I was a little surprised to see the headline indicating a potentially somewhat negative item.

It turns out that the author of the piece is himself still pro-WGA. He is simply noting that the longer the strike drags on the more other folks are becoming collateral damage and that that is eroding some support from outside the WGA.

I guess it's not anything that isn't really obvious, but again I was just a little surprised to see anything with even a slightly negative spin at such a site.

Dimension Skipper said...

Oh, and yes, of course, one night does not qualify as a significant ratings trend. (Despite the fact that for eons networks have hyped certain new shows up the wazoo for three months, then enthusiastically pat themselves on their collective backs when the first night's ratings show that it's "AMERICA'S NEWEST HIT!")

Now, if Leno is still beating Letterman in two or three weeks, then THAT'S a trend.

Personally, I can watch either of those two, simply depending on the skits and guests. I like Leno for his "Headlines" segments, but can't stand "Jaywalking." I enjoy Letterman's "Top Ten Lists" and "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches," but could do without "Rupert's Hello Deli" and "Will It Float?" segments.

I flipped channels between both wednesday night just to sort of compare and see how things seemed to be going. Can't say either wowed me or disappointed. Didn't watch either thursday night.

I usually don't bother with Kimmel at all.

As for Conan vs. Ferguson, all things being equal I much prefer Conan. Frankly, as far as Ferguson is concerned, from what I've seen of his whole tenure (and it may just be me) my reaction has always been: He has writers?!?! Sorry, but of the five main late night hosts (I'm excluding Carson Daly) Ferguson is the one I've never gotten even a little bit. He was OK on The Drew Carey Show, but as a "personality" I find him unfunny to the max.

Occasionally I may flip to him just to see if by some miracle he's doing something of minor interest or even a little bit amusing. But when I see him trot out his sorry excuse for a Prince Charles skit, I just think Who really gives a $^%$# about Prince Charles at this point!?!?! As I said, I just don't "get" Ferguson.

Brian said...

I honestly thought Jay's return without writers was much better than Letterman's by far. I mean, Dave grew a horrible looking beard just so he could fill the first 10 minutes of his monologue with horribly lame jokes about it.

Regarding an earlier reference to Jay being a snake, from what little I know of them, I have to disagree. Take the Huckabee interview on you think Dave could've had an intelligent back-and-forth conversation with Huckabee the way Leno did? Not if it was anything like the way he has "interviewed" O'Reilly in times past. Letterman straight out verbally attacks him, which is something I have never seen Leno do, ever. It shouldn't matter whether you disagree with someone or not - a good host should not behave in that manner. Leno can be funny and amiable which is why I agree with Ken in giving him the crown.

Anonymous said...

Not convinced Leno is not using writers on the sly

NBC had much to lose in this standoff, and dirty tactics come out when much is at stake.

Look at how NBC is claiming the WGA allowed Leno a free pass on writing the monologue (yeah, right) and then said guild rules permit Leno to write his monologue (untrue)

Cage Free Brown said...

well, what some people call an adult back and forth, other people call a basket of softballs.

Jay always throws 'em. that's his job. me, I've always liked both those guys and catch one or the other about once a month. they do what they do. they are pros and I like them.

still, I was pleased to see the post from early in the thread from someone who doesn't care. they may as well be Dick Cavett and Joey Bishop to a lot of people.

I was wondering what would happen if a production company wanted to meet the writers demands. It's nice to know that an agreement can be reached this way because it's starting to look like the only way anything's really going to happen for the time being.

Anonymous said...

For me, it wasn't all about seeing how well they'd do so much as being tired of the reruns.

Having said that, watching the new shows I found myself tuned into Leno longer, possibly due to Dave's beard! Whichever camp you're in, they've both seasoned and the shows weren't that bad in spite of the situation.

Leno has the edge in my house because, as an earlier reply exaggerated, his content is more accessible. When zapped after a long, and possibly quite miserable work day, highbrow Letterman antics can be too much work for tired grey matter to handle. In the absence of interesting guests, one sometimes just wants an easy monologue. Jay provides that, while Dave increasingly comes across as being fed up, wishing to be somewhere else. Maybe he needs a vacation.

estiv said...

Letterman straight out verbally attacks him, which is something I have never seen Leno do, ever. It shouldn't matter whether you disagree with someone or not - a good host should not behave in that manner.

I disagree. I think it shows something else, which a few previous commenters have touched on--Letterman is basically honest, Leno is basically dishonest. Sorry, but Bill O'Reilly just plain lies. Letterman calls him on it--Leno lets him get away with it.

Courtney Suzanne said...

I haven't watched Leno in many years, primarily because I just don't find him funny anymore. My dad, who is in his 60's, still watches his monologue and can find humor in it, so I wonder if it's a generational thing.

I like Dave, but I really prefer Conan or Ferguson for their subversive, slightly perverse sense of humor.

I do agree that the shows should not have returned. I can't see that this is good for the strike at all.

Anonymous said...

"The studios, though standing firm-ish, are a collection of individuals and thus will be a lot easier to divide and conquer."

LOL! Yeah, the studios and their multi-billion dollar corporate ownership will be far easier to divide than a bunch of writers. Especially since the WGA is now allowing SOME writers to work but not others. What could possibly go wrong with that?


Anonymous said...

zzzzzzzzzzz. and that BEARD?! Dave, you're starting to look like Sebastion Cabot or something!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Worldwide Pants/WGA deal is pretty much the way things have to work. If a company like Worldwide Pants decides to meet WGA terms, what's the WGA supposed to say in response? No, sorry, everyone has to stay after class? Does the UAW demand a deal with Ford before settling a strike against GM?

As for the Leno/Letterman battle, it's like this: these guys offer different products. Sure, they're both talk shows, but Letterman appears to the somewhat hipper crowd, while Leno is more palatable to those who enjoy the jokes in Reader's Digest. (Or, looking from the other side, Letterman caters to burned-out cynics, while Leno offers happier, lighter fare.) Switching from Letterman to Leno is no more likely than switching from champagne to ginger ale because, hey, they're both fizzy.

Jenius said...

I'm so done with Leno at this point. Crossing picket lines, Dennis Miller on seemingly every week, and exactly how much does he charge for his material-testing shows at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa? $30 a pop plus two drink minimum.

He's there every single week, and you know what he's doing? Just weeding through this week's jokes to see what works and what doesn't. Nice system, but making it a $100+ evening for a date to a weekly show of untested material? THAT'S the joke.

Sure, I have no problem with a healthy work ethic, and it's obvious when Dave didn't rehearse. But Leno seems robotic at this point. And he's just as much a writer as anyone, so perhaps he's in it to build another garage.

Karen Scott said...

Well, I was behind the strike, but that was before I realised that I wont be able to watch Ugly Betty until the writers cut a deal. So my mantra is now, Sod the strike!!

Is that shallow of me?

Anonymous said...

so, is Jay's monologue writing itself? say what you will about Letterman, have you ever seen people on strike with a bone to pick given such a platform for doing so? "take a crowbar to your wallets"? that top ten list? he may have a weird beard but he's giving you guys QUITE the soapbox and all those tourists in the audience really do seem to get the jokes.

Anonymous said...

Aren't people tuning in to see Leno fail? Isn't that the draw? With Letterman's writers back he's working with a net while Leno has the potential to crash and burn so that's much more interesting.

What's really going to be interesting is to see hwo in the hell the Daily Show and the Colbert Report will do. Will the five minute interview format expand to 20? That I'll be watching along with everyone else.


Benton Harbor said...

Leno vs Letterman? In my mind, no contest... Leno wins hands down (although an awful lot of you will disagree).

While Leno isn't the best of interviewers, Letterman is really a hack. Full of himself, constantly interrupting and digressing. His constant by-play with bandleader Paul gets old, too.

As for Conan, I give up watching the Tonight Show when he takes over.

Guess I'm just getting to old to be cutting, dark, and edgy.

Anonymous said...

I thought Letterman's first show back looked tired and old, just like he did. The network time-wasting was hip in the '80s, now it seems way past its shelf life. Why his bits continue to get nominated for awards escapes me. He is the consummate broadcaster, like his mentor, Carson, was. But the bits should be taken off life-support. Leno's first show back, sans writers, ironically looked better, at least to me. He was looser, actually tried to connect with people, the way talk shows used to do, and wasn't as straight-jacketed into parroting back prepared stuff. It made you wonder at times what would happen next, which talk shows never do anymore. But otherwise, yes, Leno doesn't know the meaning of "less is more," as far as when to stop telling jokes. As I may have said once before in this forum, he's like Denny's. Huge, mediocre portions for middle America.

But Dave? In need of a reboot, bit-wise.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Leno's appeal is a generational thing. Jay is six weeks older than me, and I only watch Letterman (With the exception noted below), whose jokes don't insult my intelligence, and who is 4 years older than Jay or me.

Dave is looking like Sebastian Cabot??? TB, get your TV fixed, as it is severely squashing your image. Sebastian was short and obese. Dave remains tall and thin. The beard is unflaterring, but it doesn't add 70 pounds.

Prior to becoming the new host of The Tonight Show, Jay was one of the best and smartest comics around, and one of the most affable and generous. (And, now-ironically, one of the leaders of the infamous Comedy Store Strike of 1979.) I don't know how or if he's changed personally, though I find it hard to believe he's become "A snake." He IS certainly very competitive.

But when he became the permanent Tonight Show host, he dumbed his act way down, to attract a "broader", i.e. dumber (You know, Huckabee voters), audience. The sad fact is, it worked. KELV's pathetic comments about his/her tired gray matter being too taxed by Dave (Which says far more about KELV than about Dave) apparently speaks for many. I hope my gray matter is never that tired. Few are Jay's jokes (I catch one Leno monologue per week, to keep abreast of what he's doing, in the vain hope that he'll improve, and become again the Jay I used to respect back in 1980) that I don't see the punchline of coming down Alameda Avenue, and aren't a joke I'd cut, while looking for something more interesting and off-center to say. His POV is always the most obvious: Clinton's a horndog, Bush is dumb, Hilary's a ballbreaker ("Hitlery" Cap'n Bob? Really? You honestly want to go with that one? You actually want to sound like Rush Limbaugh? She's murdered how many million Jews again?), etc. Letterman actually makes the brave choice of not pretending to be non-partesan. His loathing for Bush is made clear each evening.

Leno's pretence of impartiality slips when he feels it will benefit him, even if it screws us, as witness his layers of guilt in giving us Governor Schwartzenegger, on whose election night platform he was proud to stand, when he should have been ashamed.

As for their interviews, recently Letterman did the impossible; he made an interview with Paris Hilton not only watchable, but unmissable, and he didn't do it by being "Nice and amiable".

Brian said...

Letterman is basically honest, Leno is basically dishonest. Sorry, but Bill O'Reilly just plain lies. Letterman calls him on it--Leno lets him get away with it.

Assuming you are correct and O'Reilly is a big fat liar (really, who isn't?), how does "letting him get away with it" make Leno dishonest? Leno still disagrees with guests, he just doesn't use slander in doing so, making for a more intelligent conversation.

Brian said...

Letterman did the impossible; he made an interview with Paris Hilton not only watchable, but unmissable

Funny, guess I missed it.

Anonymous said...

but where is the pro-writer spin about how the writers are still necesary after Leno won the night? You always hear them joking about how if producers went on strike, productivity would increase, and stuff like that, but here you have basically the same situation, and the guy with no writers got the higer ratings.

Also, I thought Letterman accepted the WGA's terms.. is the AMPTP an actual organization that can decide for all the producers like the WGA? I don't think so.. if worldwide pants agrees to hire writers under the conditions specified by the WGA, why couldn't they? consider the opposite: if everyone was hiring acording to WGA's demands, and Letterman wanted to enslave his writers, would it be unfair for him to not be allowed to use writers?

Anonymous said...

David Letterman is a broadcaster. His NBC show was brilliant. We still see the occasionally flashes of brilliance on CBS, but to me, it seems like he's become more cynical and lazy. I get the feeling he's in it now just to outlast Leno.

Leno is a stand-up comedian (one of the best of the 80s). He puts on a decent show, but he's not a broadcaster like Letterman. His show is softer than Letterman's, and it appeals to a broader audience, which is why he's been winning all these years. Even if the writers don't come back for months, that's not going to change. People who like Leno will not abandon him for Letterman.

Johnny Carson stayed on "Tonight" about a decade too long. He was a hell of an interviewer, but his monologues were lousy. Those 1980s "Tonight Shows" were geared towards the Readers Digest crowd, not cool people and "hipsters", who couldn't wait for "Tonight" to end so Letterman could start. If you think cool people were watching Carson then, then you've drunk the Kool-Aid that deludes people into thinking Carson was better than he actually was. However Johnny was very smart by retiring and never looking back; it helped burnish his legacy. But if you look back at his later shows objectively, they were just as soft as Leno's shows are now, if not more so.

Anonymous said...

I think I would've enjoyed Dave's interview with Paris if it had been a little less like watching a cat play with a mouse.

Oh, and anonymous anti-WGA poster: As others have pointed out, Leno has been kicking Letterman's ass in the ratings pretty much from day one, so the strike isn't likely to change that.

Anonymous said...

Dave told the Guild that if they didn't give him a special deal, he would go back anyway without writers. For his case, it's too bad he got his deal. On his own, his acid narcissistic personality might have blossomed into something new worth watching.

How come Dave with writers had years of "Will It Float?"
A bit that threatens to wear out the Fast Forward button.

Go Guild!

PALGOLAK said...

I thought World Wide Pants negotiating a separate peace with the WGA would show weakness on the part of the producers, not the writers.

Is it the producers that have been split, or the writers?

Anonymous said...

This special deal for some Guild members to kill the shows of other Guild members is like the Battle of Stalingrad. Russia fought Nazis by threatening to shoot their own soldiers in the back.

Rob said...


I don't really watch either, but will say I hate Leno with a passion.

Leno may be "nice", but I get the impression Letterman is a better guy. There have been numerous rumblings throughout the years that Leno is a closet asshole, vindictive as can be if he's crossed. Leno's monologues are seldom funny, and he sells the jokes with enough flop sweat to soak the first five rows.

Letterman's monologues were never funny either (at least not that much), but I'd rather see Letterman with a guest than Leno any day.

Carson's gift was to make the guest interesting. This is something that nobody really seems to pull off these days.

I wasn't impressed with either return. And I think that Jay's getting his jokes from friends.

Anonymous said...

Presumably the agreement will get Letterman guests that won't cross the lines for Leno. That didn't really pan out this week; have to see how it goes in the next few weeks. (Will Robin Williams show up on Leno?)

I've read that Worldwide Pants doesn't own the Internet rights to the Late Show, CBS does. If that's true then it doesn't sound in the Guild's interest to make a special deal, since that's the key issue. OTOH, if WWP could meet the Guild's demands on digital distribution then the WGA could say "if the number two show can afford this, why not the number one show?".

One problem with the Letterman show these days is that they (and Craig) tape Friday's show on Thursday, so they can't be topical, which is the whole point of staying up for the show opening. E.g. no jokes about Iowa tonight (at least Ferguson made a joke about not knowing the results).

Have to love Dave's approach to Rosie O'Donnell's complaint about a joke he made about her: he repeated the joke about six times on tonight's show. Would love to see her on the show since he works best when the guest is combative (and/or copping an attitude).

Anonymous said...

"Dave told the Guild that if they didn't give him a special deal, he would go back anyway without writers."

And your source for this inside information is what, anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, for a while I was watching both shows and Jay's went down far easier. If you don't like a Jay monologue joke -- and some of them were pretty awful -- don't worry, there will be three more to come. I also think his set ably mimics the look of a nightclub; the Tonight show just LOOKS more exciting. And the street bits, while rarely original, at least have some unpredictability and spontaneity.

Letterman's show used to be all about being unpredictable but now it's all pretty rote. Apparently, when the writers just get him to leave his desk it's a major victory. I am also a fan of Dave's since his morning show but I find his CBS show unwatchable. Frankly, I can't believe his ratings are as high as they are.

By the way, this isn't strike related. What Jay, Conan and Jimmy are doing is pretty awful.

Anonymous said...

to answer d. mcewen's question as to source

Thursday, December 27 2007 Digg!
David Letterman is expected to announce today (Thursday) that he will return to the air on January 2 with or without his writers, the New York Post reported today. The newspaper suggested that Rob Burnett, who heads Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, had been unable to negotiate a deal with the Writers Guild of America that would have allowed writers to return to work on the show. Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel have each said that they plan to return to the air without writers on January 2.

Anonymous said...

I bet the WGA will give Jon Stewart a special deal because senior black correspondent Larry Wilmore is on the negotiating committe.

Anonymous said...

Okay. That is a source for saying that The New York Post SAID that is what happened. It does not, however, prove it to be true.

You just believe everything you read in the papers, or in this case, one paper? The POST yet?

But thanks for responding, as now I know how much weight to give this "fact".

Anonymous said...

uh, the is no "special" deal in play here.. The WGA offers a contract, and says "we don't work for you if you don't accept it". worldwide pants accepted it, so they get to hire WGA member writers. It is, in fact, the standard deal, the one that WGA offers everyone, and expects them to accept. It's just that the only ones accepting it right now is worldwide pants.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think the funniest thing about this is the concept that, even if letterman were to beat leno and the tonight show fell in ratings and wasn't 'on top' anymore that that would be something that would bring NBC (ie GE) to give in to the writers and push others to do the same. Ummm...yeah...GE is an extremely diversified company and NBC wasn't doing that great before anyway (hasn't since friends and frasier went off the air). The concept that the success or failure of leno would somehow bring GE to it's knees and encourage them to give in is beyond ridiculous. Am on the writer's side in this (so don't get me wrong), just saying that it's a ridiculous concept and I agree with the ACME analogy.

Anonymous said...

to answer engag's comment 'no "special" deal in play here... It is, in fact, the standard deal, the one that WGA offers everyone...'

Not Dick Clark for the Golden Globes. The WGA refuses because it would help NBC. And Dick Clark says the WGA isn't negotiating in good faith!

Interim deals are weapons.

Alto2 said...

The 1/6/08 NY Times raised an interesting point: How does Letterman's waiver affect the late night shows' abilities to attract the political candidates now? Those who go on Leno run the risk of being branded anti-union. Those who go on Letterman risk playing it safe.

More importantly, is there an end in sight or do I have to finally break down and buy a Netflix subscription?

Anonymous said...

sorry, i've never been able to get through an entire "tonight show" with leno as host - EVER. i don't even actually know how his show goes, but apparently some like it. the very few times i've tuned in and caught the guitar player being jay's bitch were enough for me to switch quickly back to dave.

a guitar player doing rim shots? enough said. dave has anton fig. again, enough said.

as for jay himself - please. he was a good stand-up, but again, the very few times i've caught the monologue i found it pathetic.

now...i LOVE letterman. i'm 59, followed the man since the mary tyler moore variety show, the morning show w/merrill markoe, nbc, and now cbs. wherever he goes, i will follow. simple as that.

sure, he tends to beat some segs to death (PLEASE, dave, KILL "will it float" i'm begging you...) and i certainly miss some of those wacky chris elliot segs, but all in all, if i am up, i'm watching letterman NOT leno.

hell, i'd watch kimmel before leno - and i've not sat through an entire kimmel either.


Anonymous said...

I like both Leno and Conan. Two different styles of humor, but both lighthearted. I'm sorry, but if I'm watching TV after a long day of work, I WANT lighthearted. Dave can be funny, but at that time of night, I don't want cynicism. And if I do, I'll just watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are a lot better than any late-nighters on broadcast TV anyway.