Returning Leno and O'Brien promise to be "unpredictable"

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Moments after NBC announced that The Tonight Show and Late Night With Conan O’Brien would return to the air Jan. 2 despite the ongoing writers’ strike, the executive producers for both shows promised that the hosts would "rise to the challenge" and provide some "fun, unpredictable moments." Both shows have been in repeats since the strike began Nov. 4.

"In a perfect world the strike would be over, the writers would be back, and we’d be up and going," Tonight Show EP Debbie Vickers said during a conference call with TV writers Monday. "But we’re not in a perfect world. It’s a real comfort level [to Leno] to have the writers. It’ll be an adjustment. But I don’t think they have these jobs if they are not good at improvising. They are comedians. When Jay is challenged, he rises to the occasion."

Both hosts released statements saying that their decisions were aimed at protecting people’s jobs. Leno’s statement said that since "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." O’Brien said in his statement that he could "either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and
allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for fourteen years, to lose
their jobs…. An unwritten version of Late Night, though not desirable, is possible
–- and no one has to be fired."

Both EPs admitted they have no idea what their shows will look like
without the help of comedy writers; they’ll spend the next few weeks
working on a new format. "Obviously, the show may look a little
different," Ross said. "We’ll fill time with things we maybe haven’t
done before." The two could just follow in the footsteps of former Tonight Show host
Johnny Carson, who returned to work during the 1988 strike and was on
the air nearly three weeks without his writers. "I know Johnny did
monologues when he came back, though there may be varying opinions on
how strong they were," Vickers said. "We really are not there yet, as
far as what we can do, but I would not rule out monologues."

As for luring guests to both shows while the writers are still striking, O’Brien’s EP Jeff Ross hinted that celebrities weren’t as
inclined to cross the picket lines early on "but temperatures may be changing a bit."
Vickers concurred: "We’re in the middle of it everyday. We’re worn out.
It has taken its toll and people realize that at some point you can’t
wait any longer, even though you want to give everyone an opportunity
for resolution. If there isn’t a resolution, we can’t wait and wait and
wait. So in that sense, there is fatigue."

 

 

 

 

 

Both EPs admitted they have no idea what their shows will look likewithout the help of comedy writers; they’ll spend the next few weeksworking on a new format. "Obviously, the show may look a littledifferent," Ross said. "We’ll fill time with things we maybe haven’tdone before." The two could just follow in the footsteps of former Tonight Show hostJohnny Carson, who returned to work during the 1988 strike and was onthe air nearly three weeks without his writers. "I know Johnny didmonologues when he came back, though there may be varying opinions onhow strong they were," Vickers said. "We really are not there yet, asfar as what we can do, but I would not rule out monologues."

As for luring guests to both shows while the writers are still striking, O’Brien’s EP Jeff Ross hinted that celebrities weren’t asinclined to cross the picket lines early on "but temperatures may be changing a bit."Vickers concurred: "We’re in the middle of it everyday. We’re worn out.It has taken its toll and people realize that at some point you can’twait any longer, even though you want to give everyone an opportunityfor resolution. If there isn’t a resolution, we can’t wait and wait andwait. So in that sense, there is fatigue."

 

 

 

 

 

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