Speed Reads

Friends Without Words

Late night shows go dark as the Hollywood writers strike begins. Here's what that looks like.

The Writers Guild of America, the union representing 11,500 TV and film writers, went on strike Tuesday, and the late-night comedy shows went dark Tuesday night, in the first manifestation of what may end up being a long disruption for scripted TV. There are no talks scheduled between the WGA and the major studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The last Hollywood writers strike, in 2007 and 2008, lasted 100 days. 

The late-night TV shows also stopped airing new episodes during the strike 15 years ago, at least for a while. Eventually, they came back on the air and tried to muddle through without scripts. Jay Leno, who hosted NBC's Tonight Show at the time, "angered WGA leadership when he began writing his own monologues," The Associated Press reports. For everyone else, the result was bizarre TV, as The Washington Post recaps. 

For now, anyway, Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Seth Meyers, The Daily Show, and — assuming the strike lasts through the week — Saturday Night Live will all air reruns. One latish-night show, Greg Gutfeld's Gutfeld! on Fox News,, will continue airing new episodes, the network said Tuesday, because "the show doesn't have WGA members among its writers," The Wall Street Journal explains.  

Colbert, a WGA member, prepared his audience for the strike on Monday night's show, doing a scripted segment on future news events he would have made fun of if the writers weren't striking. "Everyone, including myself, hope both sides reach a deal, but I also think that the writers' demands are not unreasonable," he said.

And Colbert (and his writers) did manage to slip in a final poke at Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was fired last week while The Late Show was on break. 

If the writers strike lasts for months, eventually all scripted TV shows, then film production, will be affected. And the Directors Guild of America and the actors union SAG-AFTRA could join the strike if they are unable to negotiate new contracts when their current ones expire in June. Maybe Colbert's joke about him "rambling about Lord of the Rings and boats for an hour" won't turn out to be so funny after all.