Leno, Conan to Return Despite Strike

NEW YORK Despite the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, NBC said both of its marquee late-night talk shows would return with original installments shortly after New Year’s Day.

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Night With Conan O’Brien are to resume broadcasting on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 (11:35 p.m. and 12:35 a.m., respectively).

The announcement came as the Writers Guild of America has begun approaching individual production companies to negotiate deals separate from the labor union’s stalled talks with the Association of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP).

Among the deals to come out of this strategy may well be one struck with David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, which produces both of CBS’ late night programs, Late Show With David Letterman and Later With Craig Ferguson. If a deal is struck there, writers may soon return to those programs with the union’s blessings.

Leno issued his own 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.”

In a separate statement, O’Brien said, “It is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2. 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.”

Both late-night shows suspended production due to the writers’ strike on Nov. 5 and have aired repeats since.