Strike forces late night comedies into re-runs

by Jinah Kim
NBC News

As Hollywood's top writers did this, late night TV did this.

On the Tonight Show, Jay Leno joked, "so if you turn on our show next week and the guests are Mr. T, MC Hammer and the Where's the Beef lady, that's how you know!"

The shows that rely on writers to turn fresh material every day, like the Tonight Show, David Letterman, and the Daily Show immediately went to re-runs.  And they'll stay that way until the writers and the studios come back to the bargaining table.

Jay Leno says, "if the writers were actually working now I would be hilarious. I would be hilarious right now. But look see, they're all closed mouthed, so obviously I have nothing to say. I am an empty shell waiting to be filled in by the material written by these folks."

In Los Angeles and in New York, the writers are getting support from some of the very people whose shows have been put on hold.  The writers say they won't go back to work until the studios agree to share the profits from shows and movies that end up on the internet.

"Tonight Show" writer Joe Medeiras says, "it's critical - it's crucial. It's the future of television."

Screenwriter Matt Ember says, "all we're asking is if they get paid, we should get paid too."

The studios call the writers strike irresponsible and devastating to the industry.  So far, there's no word when the two sides will get back to the bargaining table.

The only shows and films that can continue production right now are the ones whose scripts have been pre-written, or the reality shows, which don't rely on union writers.