Late night could be 'rerun city'

Multicamera comedies also could be strike casualties

Late-night talk shows and primetime multicamera comedies could become the first casualties of a writers strike.

In late-night, such shows as NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "Saturday Night Live" as well as Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" are scheduled to go dark starting today if a strike begins.

CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" also are expected to go into repeats. It's not clear what the contingency plans are for ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Because they feature hands-on involvement by the writers throughout the sitcoms' weekly production cycle, including during the taping in front of live audience, all multicamera sitcoms with the exception of ABC veteran "According to Jim" would shut down production this week if the eleventh-hour efforts to avert a strike fail.

Expected to go dark are CBS' "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Rules of Engagement" and Fox's "Back to You" and " 'Til Death."

CBS' hybrid "How I Met Your Mother" would shoot another script before going on strike-related hiatus.

"Late-night is what gets hit the hardest," said Nancy Huck, a senior buyer at Starcom MediaVest's Spark Communications. "It becomes rerun city."

She and other buyers didn't think that it would drastically hurt the late-night programs in the short run as some of them might have gone into repeats as the holidays neared. But it could be a problem down the line.

"Daily Show" and "Colbert" had been scheduled to go into production for the next two weeks before going on a one-week break before Thanksgiving and then resume production until the holiday break starting Dec. 24. Each show has about a dozen writers. There also are 40-60 other below-the-line employees, most of whom will likely be idled.

Comedy Central is discussing options between 11 p.m. and midnight — and the several repeats per day — in the event of a prolongued strike.

"We will evaluate what we do in those time slots," Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said in a conference call with analysts Friday. "We will have reruns for a little while, and then we will see what we do with the format."

In daytime, the broadcast networks' soaps are set with enough scripts to keep fresh episodes on the air for the next few months.

NBC's "Days of Our Lives" and the CBS dramas "The Young and the Restless," "The Bold and the Beautiful" and "As the World Turns" have enough scripts to take them through at least January, while CBS' "Guiding Light" could be OK for another month beyond that.

ABC's soaps "One Life to Live," "General Hospital" and "All My Children" also are set through the beginning of the year.

"ABC's daytime dramas are written well into the new year, and we will continue to produce original programming with no repeats and without interruption," an ABC Daytime spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, "The View," ABC's late-morning chatfest, will continue with its regular schedule, as will the daytime talk show "Live With Regis and Kelly," which has no writers.

Paul J. Gough reported from New York; Kimberly Nordyke reported from Los Angeles. Nellie Andreeva contributed to this report.