Perhaps the only fun of watching the new, writerless versions of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report last night was detecting the seething anger both hosts evidently feel from having to front half-assed versions of their shows. While both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert drew wild ovations last night, both knew that what their adoring audiences most missed could not be delivered until the strike is settled. That is a full on satirical attack in the midst of a U.S. presidential campaign.
Instead, both Stewart and Colbert took pains to demonstrate how their shows were reduced during the on-going labor impasse. When Colbert cued up his "Word of the Day," there was no word--just as there were no words in his TelePrompTers.
Stewart seemed especially miffed that his show could not reach an interim deal similar to the one reached by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants that would allow him to return to the air with his two dozen writers/Harvard grads. Nikkie Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily today reports that Stewart told his studio audience that, after he personally joined in the lobbying on behalf of Comedy Central to accept a Letterman-like deal, the WGA turned down the offer.
Stewart's problem, of course, is that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, which is linked to CBS, and the Guild wants to force CBS and the other Big 8 AMPTP producers back to the table.
How is that going? Not so good, as Stewart might say. He tried to take the mickey out of both sides last night, suggesting that the whole dispute was just a math problem that has kept his show and others off their air for nine weeks--eight weeks longer than the TV blackout in the aftermath of 9/11.
He also took dead aim at the ridiculous pretentiousness of the WGA "Speechless" ads which have been circulating on the Internet, mocking how the Guild was able to get big stars like Sean Penn to appear in the spots, which usually show actors unable to utter any words. "Oh my God! You got Sean Penn to advocate your cause!" Stewart bellowed. "You must have a cause!"
The Guild leadership seemed convinced that the late night talk shows would all attempt to shame the producers back to the table but Stewart's show at least demonstrated that there may be plenty of shame to spread around. This Thursday night's scheduled Leno/Kimmel guest swap is shaping up to be the "Must See" moment of strike so far. Look for the Guild to come in for some heat--especially if the ratings hit the roof on these writerless shows.