I should start this post by noting that everyone I know, young and old, doesn’t get lunkhead NBC’s Last Call host Carson Daly’s appeal. Indeed, I’ve seen chimps with better TV charisma and good looks and interviewing skills. And yet NBC at the time was so delighted about hiring him just because he dated starlets and pop stars and smarmed MTV. So the network is more enthusiastic than ever now that Daly today announced that he is the first of the late night hosts returning to the air despite the ongoing writers walkout. He plans to resume taping Wednesday for new episodes that will begin airing next week. “He wanted to go back to support his staffers,” the network spokeswoman said. NBC has informed the non-writing staff of Daly’s show, as well as Jay Leno’s and Conan O’Brien’s, that they face layoffs at the end of this week unless the shows return to the airwaves. (Meanwhile, NBC is so desperate to get Leno back behind The Tonight Show desk that it’s humiliating him with “vintage” episodes which should be destroyed, not aired.)
Tonight, the striking Writers Guild of America issued this statement of criticism: “We’re disappointed at Carson Daly’s decision to return to work. Mr. Daly is not a writer and not a member of the WGA, unlike other late-night hosts Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson, and Jimmy Kimmel, who have all resisted network pressure and honored our writers’ picket lines. We hope he’ll change his mind and follow the lead of the other late-night hosts.”
The late night shows have not been in production during the entire November sweeps. Since the repeats don’t generate the same ratings as original shows, the networks have to give sponsors free spots or “give backs” at a cost of millions. Ergo all the pressure from CBS and NBC and ABC on its late night hosts. So the fact that Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig and Jimmy — all members of the WGA, which Carson is not — have stayed out much longer than anyone thought would happen (especially in light of 1988) is a major concern to the networks and a major boon to the WGA.
But back to Daly. Today he’s also accused of setting up a “joke hotline” as a strike breaking effort — prompting the WGA to scold “We’re especially appalled at Mr. Daly’s call for non-Guild writers to provide him with jokes.” The Smoking Gun published an email purportedly from Daly detailing how he asked a small group of contacts to call in “suggested jokes” to a telephone hotline, noting that he would “play some, most, or all of your jokes on the air.” The bit, Daly stressed, was not meant to “make fun” of his striking writers. He added that his goal was to just “play a fun collage of random people trying to ‘help me out.'” The bit’s set-up, Daly wrote in his Sunday night e-mail was that “the devastating writers strike” led to “A TON of my friends and family…calling me, leaving messages, offering their help with jokes because they know that I don’t have any writers working and hosting a late night show without them will be nearly impossible for me.” It’s all online, barf bag not included.