Last night's late night shows were all too funny without the writers. While some people scoffed at the late night shows coming back before the writers did, others suggested that it was the best thing possible for the striking writers - and they were right: there's no better encouragement for NBC to sign on to a new deal than Jay Leno unscripted. Viewers were gifted with the special treat of a Jay Leno 'free for all' where he (get this) took real questions from the audience. 'Hey Jay, would you ever do a show for me in Missouri?' 'Hey Jay, do you ever think you'll go to Daytona Beach?' Yes, these were the questions audience members were asking - and, I'm sure, the same questions that had producers crying.
Conan O'Brien's show wasn't nearly as bad. He was actually quite funny, but that's only because he has something Jay Leno lacks (talent). However, it's clear that the "man, this is delicious water" jokes can only go too far, as he was literally boasting toward the audience about how he was going to be wasting time, without his writers. It won't be funny again either tonight or tomorrow. Nor will Conan's efforts to spin his wedding ring on his desk, seeing how long he can make it go before it falls (38 seconds and 28 seconds each - and, yes, viewers got to see him do it twice.) We also got to see Conan with a beard, not shaving in solidarity with his writers - and spending about 5 minutes of the show's time talking his fire-red facial fur. As much as I think Conan O'Brien is a comic genius, it's clear his show can't last the test of time without his team of talented writers.
Further complicating matters is the fact that David Letterman has his own production company, which operates the show. Therefore, he was able to negotiate his own deal with the writers. That means Letterman's show won't completely suck - at least, any more than he usually does - which spells certain doom for at least Jay Leno. NBC, if it would like to maintain it's Late Night ratings edge, may want to think fast about how many more Jay Leno Audience Question Times it wants before it drags on this strike any longer than it already has been. If one of the major networks signs on to the writers' deal, then the rest will too, lest they have no original content while the other stations are producing Emmy-winning fresh episodes. The writers aren't asking for much and deserve high compensation for their work; it's clear that even the most talented actors and hosts can't keep up entertaining shows without their entertaining writers, never mind the Jay Lenos of the world.