After late night talk shows plunged into two-month replay hell because of the writers strike, Jay Leno has finally returned, and with a vengeance. About 7.2 million people tuned in, over 40% more than his usual ratings. Letterman drew in 5.5 million viewers, about 45% more than usual.
Letterman was able to negotiate a deal with the writers, and had dancing girls carry picket signs that supported other writers. The others — Leno, O’Brien — said they wrote their own scripts. Many of them made references to the strike. “The walkout’s cost the town over half a billion dollars. Or as Paul McCartney calls that, `A divorce,'” joked Leno.
Only hot topic aside from the strike? Letterman’s beard, which guest Robin Williams compared to Gen. Robert E. Lee, a rabbi and an Iraqi mullah.
With no writers (and no new haircuts) O’Brien and Leno had to resort to other segment fillers: showing Christmas cards, spinning wedding rings, dancing on tables, and (gasp) taking audience questions. What’s next, bingo?
Creative stretch marks were immediately evident on the shows without writers. O’Brien, sporting facial growth to match his red hair, showed off Christmas cards, danced on his table as his band played the Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven” and tried to see how long he could spin his wedding ring on his desk. Leno took questions from his audience.
What’s next, bingo?