No laughing matter: With writers on strike, US late-night shows go dark

New York, May 3: Late-night shows, a hugely popular staple of American network and cable television, are going to bed early for the foreseeable future, reports ‘Variety’.

ABC’s ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’, CBS’ ‘The Late Show’, Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ and NBC’s ‘Tonight’ and ‘Late Night’ are all going on hiatus as a result of the start of the Hollywood writers’ strike — and the shows could be off air for at least a few weeks.

In place of new programmes, adds ‘Variety’, NBC, CBS and ABC will air repeats of those shows. HBO will also cease live production of ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ and ‘This Week Tonight’ with John Oliver. Immediate word on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ was not available.

Writers play an integral role in TV’s late-night schedule, bashing out multiple jokes, one-liners and sketches each day that play off current events and trending popular culture, notes ‘Variety’.

The contract between the Writers’ Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents about 350 TV and film production companies, ended on May 1.

The late-night shows often serve as a leading indicator of sentiment. When the WGA last went on strike in 2008, the hosts stayed off the air for two months. But Jay Leno, Kimmel, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien managed to return to the air, says ‘Variety’.

Letterman did so by coming to new terms with the WGA — and was able to bring his writing staff with him. Others had to wing it, with Leno doing his own monologues. “There are more people picketing NBC than watching NBC,” he told viewers on his first night back.