COMMENTS: Late Night Goes Unfunny

A second show business story was also covered by reporters on all three newscasts. This one was closer to home since the dispute involved their own employers. The networks and studios are facing a screenwriters' strike over what happens when dramas they write for television or movie theaters are distributed as DVDs, podcasts, downloads and videostreams. "Right now they get nothing. They want 2.5% of the profits," reported CBS' Bill Whitaker. The coverage did not concentrate on the power struggle inside the entertainment-industrial complex. Instead it focused simply on how the strike will change the TV we watch. "Late night TV viewers will be the first to notice any change," NBC's Peter Alexander told us. Their comedy monologues depend on topical references so no scripts can be prepared in advance. "The soap operas could feel writers' block within a few weeks," Alexander punned. Primetime television will be next and finally theatrical movies. "You will see more reality shows," promised ABC's Brian Rooney (subscription required). "For the writers to really hurt the industry they have to be out for months."

Late night comedian Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight, made a showing on all three newscasts. CBS' Whitaker showed him distributing doughnuts in solidarity. "They are not giving me anything. I mean I am a dead man," he complained to ABC's Rooney about his lack of scripted jokes. "See how unfunny I am now? Exactly! I am not saying anything humorous because they are all on strike," was the soundbite NBC's Alexander used.

Perhaps it was the blackout of competition from Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel et al that inspired CBS anchor Katie Couric to end her newscast with this King Tutankhamun punchline.


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