Dave Gee: Entertainment Now: Letterman secures Top 10 deal with Striking Writers
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Late-night US TV host David Letterman is preparing to return to the airwaves, after securing a one-off deal with the Writers Guild of America, which will allow his writing staff to come back to work.

The CBS television show, The Late Show with David Letterman, is one of a number of shows forced off the air because of ongoing strike action by screenwriters in the United States.

Talks between the writers' union and the major studios broke down again in early December, amidst fading hopes of a quick resolution. Late-night talkshows and topical daily programmes were the first to be forced off the air, with most scripted network programmes calling a halt to production shortly after.

The Writers Guild is seeking a new contract for its 10,500 members, as the strike drags into its third month. The major sticking point is compensation for content on the internet and other digital media avenues.

Letterman's independent deal (through his own company WorldWide Pants) means regular features like his 'Top 10' list will be part of the show, when it returns to air this week. CBS sister show The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson is also covered by the new agreement.

Meanwhile NBC's late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, are also scheduled to return on Wednesday night.

However they'll do so without their staff writers, because under harsh strike rules in the United States, theyre not allowed to write their own material (!?!). The NBC and ABC talkshows are expected to rely more on musical guests and celebrity interviews to fill their programmes.

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) are also gearing up to to return, and will be back on the channel next Monday, January 7th.

NBC's Carson Daly was the first late-night host to return to US TV screens, defying the writers' strike and resuming production on Last Call with Carson Daly in early December. Daly claimed he was forced to return to work, telling the Los Angeles Times newspaper NBC gave him an ultimatum, ordering him to "Put a new show on Dec. 3 or 75 people are fired. What's your answer?"

The Writers Guild infiltrated a recent taping of "Last Call", making calls of protest while Daly tried to conduct an interview. The union claimed it was "disappointed" and "appalled" by Daly's decision to put his show back on the air. Daly isn't a member of the WGA, but intially pulled his show out of support for the writers.

It seems to me surprising and quite appalling the level of control unions appear to have in a progressive country like the United States. The writers' strike is destructive and unproductive, and will only seek in driving more viewers away from television and onto the internet and video games.

The recent strike by Broadway stage-hands (who were largely seeking to hang onto out-dated conditions) did great harm to one of New York's major tourist attractions. I believe TV and Film studios should have the right to be able to simply fire any writers unwilling to work, and hire someone else who does want to do the job.

* Zap2it.com: Letterman, Leno Start Booking Guests
* Zap2it.com: WGA Writers' Strike Roundup