Three more late-nighters chat up Jan. 2


Jan. 2 is the late-night shows' preferred date to return to the air.

On Tuesday, ABC said "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will be back that day, just as NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" are set to return — all without writers.

Also on Tuesday, David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, producer and owner of CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," said those shows also are targeting Jan. 2 for their return, but with writers in tow.

The independent production company had signaled its willingness to cut an interim deal with the WGA that would allow the shows' writers to come back. But, following the WGA's stated intent during the weekend to negotiate individually with production entities, there has been no movement on part of the guild. So, Worldwide Pants reached out to them publicly.

"We are willing to agree to the writers' demands that are within our control, so we have no reason to believe that an interim agreement can't be achieved with the WGA," company president and CEO Rob Burnett said. "As a result, our only focus is on returning Jan. 2 with writers."

With the holidays fast approaching, the prospect for a deal to assure the Jan. 2 return of "Late Show" and "Late Late Show" with their writers remains up in the air. Since CBS is said to control the Internet rights to the shows, a pact between Worldwide Pants and the WGA wouldn't touch on the main sticking point in the writers' labor dispute with the major studios, residuals from content online.

A rep for the WGA said that the guild had been waiting for the results of a negotiating committee meeting, scheduled for today, before responding to Worldwide Pants.

"The proposal is on the agenda," the rep said late Tuesday.

Like his talk-show brethren, Kimmel expressed support for the writers while saying he had to do something for the below-the-line staff.

"Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than 100 people whose financial well-being depends on our show," the host said. "It is time to go back to work. I support my colleagues and friends in the WGA completely and hope this ends both fairly and soon."

As a WGA member, Kimmel is prohibited from penning a monologue or performing any other writing duties that would normally be done by a WGA scribe.

"Until the resolution of the strike, 'JKL' will operate following a modified format in accordance with WGA guidelines," executive producer Jill Leiderman said in a statement. She added that Kimmel will work "understanding the sensitivity of the current climate."

"Jimmy Kimmel Live" has been anything but since the writers strike began Nov. 5, with 18 of 20 of the telecasts repeats. But the show was still able to do what other late-night talk shows were not: show a year-to-year increase in the November sweep.

Despite the strike — and in part because of "Dancing With the Stars" and other ABC primetime telecasts — Kimmel had its largest November sweep audience and was up slightly year-to-year.