Some of first shows to go dark at the start of the writers strike were among the first to make their returns Monday.
Network late night shows resumed Monday night, five months to the day after they closed up shop when the Writers Guild of America went on strike. With a tentative agreement in hand, the guild called an end to the strike last week, which allowed ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’ Late Show With Stephen Colbert and NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers to start up again. (HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver resumed over the weekend.)
All four hosts opened their shows with expressions of gratitude for the WGA’s new contract. In a pre-taped cold open, Colbert pretended to be on a rowboat at sea when a dolphin informed him the strike had ended with, among other things, regulations on artificial intelligence in the writing process: “Oh, I see, artificial intelligence can be used, but it can’t be credited as a writer or be a source of literary material? That makes sense — why did that take five months?”
“It feels good to be back,” Colbert said, noting that “Thanks to the picket lines, my writers got fresh air and sunshine — and they do not care for that. Now they’re back safely in their joke holes, doing what they do best: Making my prompter word screen full of good and ha-ha.”
Fallon launched into a series of jokes about how excited he was to be back in the Tonight Show studio: “I’m more excited than a guy seeing the Beetlejuice musical with Lauren Boebert. I’m more excited than a Jets fan during the first three plays of the season.” After a break, he got a little more serious, saying “I had a lot of time — five months — to really sit and think. I just took a moment and realized how grateful I am for all of this, for this show. I really love this job.”
Kimmel — whose show began a little later than Fallon’s or Colbert’s, thanks to Monday Night Football on ABC — did a cold open of him in therapy (his shrink: guest Arnold Schwarzenegger), before taking the stage only to find it commandeered by a pickleball foursome. (Fallon joked the Tonight studio had been idle for so long, “NBC turned it into a Spirit Halloween.”)
“We’ve been gone so long, The Bachelor is now a grandfather,” he said. “The weirdest thing about being off the air is, when I walk in a room, nobody claps.” He also thanked the show’s crew “and all union crews” and noted that the WGA’s new contract “is a big win for the little guy, and a big win for the chubby guy, and the hairy dude, and the weird girl who doesn’t make eye contact, and the two potheads in the Star Wars T-shirts that are too small for their bodies, the guy who’s too old to have a ponytail and the lady whose cats each have their own Instagram pages. We call them writers, and they are all back to work.”
Meyers, in a clip released before the show aired, delivered heartfelt thanks to his fellow writers and WGA leadership for getting the deal done and to the Late Night crew “for their patience while we worked through this very necessary labor stoppage.”
He also acknowledged his family, noting that “It was not easy to have me around for 5 months. I’ll never forget the day this summer, my 7-year-old came up to me and said, ‘Not only do I not care what Rudy Giuliani did today, I’m not gonna care what he does tomorrow.’ While I hear that, I do think he’s missing out.”
After getting their thankful remarks out of the way, the hosts attempted in varying degrees to recap the time they’d been off the air. Colbert launched into several minutes of clips and jokes about the news of the summer, heavy on the multiple indictments of Donald Trump, and Kimmel went hard at the former president as well. Fallon opted for a simpler strategy: “We have so much news to cover, but I’m going to sum it up in two words: Taylor Swift.”
Meyers devoted his entire show to his Closer Look segment (“to the max!”), opening it with a breathless summary of what was to come:
Fallon had Matthew McConaughey and John Mayer as his first-night guests, while Kimmel welcomed Scwharzenegger and musical guest Jason Isbell. The Late Show featured astrophysicist and Neil deGrasse Tyson and a performance by bandleader Louis Cato. While actors union SAG-AFTRA remains on strike, talk shows are covered under a different contract that allows the hosts to do their jobs and union members to appear, provided they don’t promote any work for struck companies. McConaughey, for example, discussed a children’s book, Just Because, he recently released, as well as his 2021 memoir Greenlights.
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