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The Telefile

Jay & Conan; Dave & Craig; Jimmy

by Miss Alli January 2, 2008 11:42 am
davegeorge.jpgIn the first significant change in the status quo in a couple of months, the non-Comedy-Central late-night lineup returns tonight. But of course, that means something very different for Letterman and Craig Ferguson than for Leno and Conan, because the CBS shows, both owned by Letterman's company (and don't get me started on how much I love the fact that this has forced the legitimate media to make solemn mentions of "Worldwide Pants"), return with their writers, while Leno and Conan -- and Jimmy Kimmel, if you like ironic appearances by Clay Aiken that Clay Aiken doesn't know are ironic -- return without.

Thanks to the individual deal WWP reached with the WGA, Letterman and Ferguson can run their shows largely as they always do, and their shows aren't really struck anymore. This not only means that the CBS guys can, like, have content, but it means that guests on their shows don't have to worry about crossing picket lines. I'm thinking this means Dave and Craig will have a lot of famous guests, while Leno and Conan will be scrounging for non-union, non-actor famous people -- reality-show participants may have a better chance of seeing a mainstream late-night couch than they've had in years, as long as they don't have queasy feelings about picket lines.

This opens up an obvious opportunity for Letterman and probably an even bigger one for Craig Ferguson, who I'd think could make some serious advances on NBC as it prepares to replace Conan when he takes Leno's job. It's hard for me, though, to judge this accurately, because of the deep divide between my taste in late-night comedy and the tastes of everyone else. America freakin' loves Jay Leno, you guys -- the stupid, obvious jokes; the Jaywalking segments; the unfunny interviews -- and I've never gotten it, ever. So maybe they aren't subject to conversion to Dave's darker, far more rebellious outlook. But I've got to think that when Dave has other people they they love on the couch and Jay doesn't, they're going to be sorely tempted to show up. My guess is that in the short run, the NBC side won't suffer, because people will be so damn curious about what will possibly happen without writers. I know I'm damn curious. But in the long run, it just won't be that exciting -- it will be a lot of interviews and a lot of standing around.

I freely admit that I watch these developments with one hat on that's purely analytical/ethical, where I know which side my own mind is on, and one hat on that's eating popcorn and watching the totally fascinating way these things play out based on wackadoo intercelebrity politics matched in complexity only by, possibly, seasons of The Wire. If you're an actor who can't get on Dave's show but you can get on either Jay's show or Craig's show, is it better to take Craig's show with the much lower ratings but the lack of picket-line problems, or to take Jay's show and eat the hopefully short-term recriminations of crossing the picket line? Can you take Jay's show and use the time to talk about supporting the strike? If you go on Craig's show instead of Jay's show, do you earn a demerit with NBC that will haunt you when Jay/Conan returns?

And if you're Jimmy Kimmel, how do you remain relevant?

Okay, actually, if you're Jimmy Kimmel, you've probably already been working on that one for about ten years.

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