US late-night shows set to return after months following strikes

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will return to air by Monday

TV’s late-night hosts plan to return to their evening sketches and monologues by next week – reinstating the flow of topical humour silenced for five months by the newly ended Hollywood’s writers’ strike.

Bill Maher led the charge back to work by announcing early on Wednesday that his HBO show Real Time With Bill Maher will be back on the air on Friday.

By mid-morning, the hosts of NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS had announced they will also return, all by Monday.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is slated to return to the air on Sunday.

Fallon, Meyers, Kimmel, Colbert and Oliver spent the latter part of the strike teaming up for a popular podcast called Strike Force Five – named after their personal text chain and with all proceeds benefitting their out-of-work writers.

On Instagram on Wednesday, they said it was “mission complete”.

The plans for some late-night shows were not immediately clear, like Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central’s Daily Show, which had been using guest hosts when the strike hit.

Scripted shows will take longer to return, with actors still on strike and no negotiations on the horizon.

On Tuesday night, board members from the writers union approved a contract agreement with studios, bringing the industry at least partly back from a historic halt in production which stretched nearly five months.

Maher delayed returning to his talk show during the ongoing strike by writers and actors, a decision that followed similar pauses by The Drew Barrymore Show, The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show.

The three-year agreement with studios, producers and streaming services includes significant wins in the main areas writers had fought for – compensation, length of employment, size of staffs and control of artificial intelligence (AI) – matching or nearly equalling what they sought at the strike’s outset.

The union had sought minimum increases in pay and future residual earnings from shows and will get a raise of between 3.5% and 5% in those areas — more than the studios had offered.

The guild also negotiated new residual payments based on the popularity of streaming shows, where writers will get bonuses for being a part of the most popular shows on Netflix, Max and other services – a proposal studios initially rejected.

Many writers on picket lines said they were not properly paid for helping create heavily watched properties.

On AI, the writers got the regulation and control of the emerging technology they had sought.

Under the contract, raw, AI-generated storylines will not be regarded as “literary material” — a term in their contracts for scripts and other story forms a screenwriter produces.

This means they will not be competing with computers for screen credits.

Nor will AI-generated stories be considered “source” material, their contractual language for the novels, video games or other works that writers may adapt into scripts.

Writers have the right under the deal to use AI in their process if the company they are working for agrees and other conditions are met.

But companies cannot require a writer to use AI.

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