Leno, the scab?

Jay crosses picket lines for show

Jay Leno has crossed writers’ picket lines to bring his chat show back to American TV.

His Tonight Show returned last night without striking writers, with Leno saying he wrote his topical monologue himself, just the way he did when he started as a stand-up.

Observers said there was little obvious difference in the show, with Variety reporting that ‘Leno's gag-filled monologue… looked remarkably the same’ without writers.

Leno was back on NBC on the same night as CBS rivals David Letterman and Craig Ferguson returned to the air. However they did not cross picket lines as Letterman’s Worldwide Pants company, which makes both shows, had struck a deal with writers.

All the shows contained messages of support for the Writers’ Guild Of America’s industrial action.

Letterman opened his programme with a chorus line of high-kicking dancing girls carrying picket signs and included a Top 10 list of demands from striking writers, including: ‘Producers must immediately remove their heads from their asses’

But he also made light of the industrial conflict, saying: ‘We're the only show on the air with jokes by union writers! And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, “This crap is written?”’

His show featured Robin Williams and a video message from Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who said: ‘Dave's been off the air for eight long weeks because of the writers strike. Tonight he's back. Oh well -- all good things must come to an end.’

Leno, in contrast, had to make do with Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee, who he interviewed at length – perhaps because major stars would be reluctant to cross picket lines. The writers’ guild issued a statement saying it was ‘disappointed’ at Huckabee’s actions.

Fellow late-night hosts Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel also returned, without a union deal.

Despite crossing the picket lines, O'Brien said: ‘I want to make this clear, I support the cause - these are very talented, very creative people who work extremely hard, and I believe what they're asking for is fair.’

The latest bargaining between the union and the union conglomerates over the writers’ share of download and DVD revenues collapsed on December 7, and no new talks are planned.

Here's the introduction to David Letterman's show last night:

Published: 3 Jan 2008

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