Carson Daly: The Face of a Writer's Strike Scab?
Former MTV hottie Carson Daly became the first late night host to cross the striking Writers Guild of America picket lines and go back on the airwaves last night, returning to his show Last Call in the same way Johnny Carson and David Letterman returned to work in the midst of the 1988 writers' strike.
Of course, it took Carson and Letterman months to make that decision, not weeks. And it's tough to gauge the moral impact of Daly's action, thanks to all the rumors flying around. Is he a gutless personality who was threatened with losing his show? A stand up guy who wanted to keep his crew employed?
Or a guy who realizes -- as anyone will after watching a single episode -- that his show is so lame it already looks like no one's writing it?
Daly's act -- and my DVR let me down last night, so I didn't get a chance to see his first show sans- writing staff -- is simply the first sign of the TV season to come. As optimism fades that producers and writers will work anything out soon, it's becoming more obvious what kind of TV and movie season awaits us. And its filled with marginal talents like Daly working without a net.
Lost fans hoping the strike might help their series get even more attention must be bumming following public statements featured on strike coverage goddess Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily blog indicating producer Carlton Cuse will stop working on the show due to the failed negotiations with producers.
I'm thinking public patience with both writers and producers will vanish as viewers get a better idea of what really will fill their TVs and movies screens as the strike drags on. But, this being Hollywood, nobody's going to give up money unless they're feeling some pain. And there's plenty of pain coming in TV's lackluster midseason.
CBS released its January and February schedule Monday, and it is frightening. 48 Hours Mystery, a true crime documentary series previously relegated to the no-viewers land of Saturday nights, takes Cane's spot at 10 p.m. Tuesdays. Big Brother, the brainless reality show featuring 10 narcissists stuck living in the same cardboard house, moves from summer to air in a regular TV season for the first time, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.
The only scripted shows announced: a lame new comedy starring Raquel Welch and Jeffrey Tambor, Julia Louis Dreyfus' lame sitcom (will the WGA picket line fixture appear on any talk shows to promote the show? And if she does, will she be considered a scab?) and the return of Jericho.
The TV Critics Association also announced that, if the strike continues for much longer, it will have to cancel the Los Angeles press tour usually scheduled in January (which I rarely attend). I'm sure the networks are concerned that writers will picket the event, making stars unwilling to cross the lines for press conferences, but it's a blow to a group with members scrambling to prove their worth to editors.
NBC has also announced a deal to hand over chunks of its schedule to the guys who produced Ice Truckers and Deadliest Catch for the Discovery Channel. One problem: those shows were successful in the limited world of cable, but its hard to know whether mass network TV audiences will want similar fare. And there's a troubling note at the end of the New York Times story: instead of shooting hourlong pilots for future shows, these producers will shoot five to 10-minute segments which will air on Dateline NBC or the Today show.
So the desperate circumstances of the writer's strike have torn down yet another chuck of wall separating news from entertainment in the NBC family. And people were worried about Brian Williams hosting Saturday Night Live?