What happened
Striking Hollywood writers picketed today outside of the studios where The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel Live tape their programs because all three shows are returning to the air tonight without their writing staffs. Late Show With David Letterman and Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson return tonight as well, but with full writing staffs behind them, as their parent company, Worldwide Pants, recently worked out an independent deal with the Writers Guild of America.

What the commentators said

While Letterman returns “with his writing team intact,” said Michael Rechtshaffen in The London Free Press, Leno “will be flying by the seat of his own pants.” On top of that, many “big name stars are refusing to cross those WGA picket lines,” so “Leno’s guest list could be looking flimsy.” We might see “Dave partying with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts over on the East Coast as Leno chats up the oldest living cribbage player on the West Coast.”

And the ability to book “A-list” guests could give Letterman a real edge over Leno, O’Brien, and Kimmel, said David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun. That kind of “star power” could “make Letterman the new late-night ratings leader—instead of the traditional runner-up to Leno.”

Leno will be just “fine,” said Tim Goodman the San Francisco Chronicle. “He knows how to ad-lib. He doesn’t need a teleprompter or some cue cards.” As a matter of fact, “don’t be surprised if he’s actually better.” And there should also be some “real anticipation to see what kind of” unhinged material “Conan and Kimmel will come up with.” These guys are “going to be playing a much more dangerous game” than Letterman. Wouldn’t you rather watch “a high-wire act with no net?”