Late-Night Talk Shows Could Return by Early October

Late-night talk shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver could return as soon as early October. The WGA reached a tentative deal with the studios to end the strike, which opens the door for talk shows that employ WGA writers to resume production.

“We want to come back ASAP,” said one late-night insider to Variety. Added another: “I think everybody’s leaning forward, like they’re ready to go…. I would look for them to return on October 2 or October 9. I think that they are going to be very motivated to get their crews working again.”

Late-night talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver fall under SAG-AFTRA's network code deal, which allows the respective hosts to return even though SAG-AFTRA is still on strike. The five hosts banded together during the strike and started the Strike Force Five podcast.

The Late-Night Talk Shows Went Off the Air in April

JimmyFallon e1695658216101
Image Credit: Wiki Commons, By Deadly437 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Although the late-night talk shows stopped airing new shows in April, some movement occurred behind the scenes while waiting for the WGA strike to end. “We’ve been keeping the wheels somewhat in motion,” one talk show staffer said to Variety. “So, it’s just sort of dusting off the studio, and getting it back up again… it’s not exactly a light switch, but as long as you can get everybody back in, the network just has to pull repeats and start putting new broadcast shows back on. It’s just about what goes into those shows. And that’s the part that you need a little lead time for, is to figure exactly what you’re coming back and doing.”

Variety reports, “Some shows have been continuing to book their episodes, with the knowledge that eventually they’ll actually be back in production. Shows that kept their talent boards going have been plotting various versions of guest lists: Some with SAG-AFTRA guests (for when that strike ends), some with non-SAG-AFTRA guests, and in some cases, guest lists of SAG-AFTRA members who are allowed to promote a project that is either not SAG related, or has received a waiver from the guild. Then there are musicians, sports figures, politicians, reality stars, authors, celebrity chefs, and other ways to fill the time.”

An executive with a late-night background told Variety:

“Most of those shows are pretty well-oiled machines. And it’s a lot of people that have been working together for a long time. Short of paperwork, I think they can get the operation going quite quickly. Those pivots happened multiple times through the pandemic, where you’re up, you’re down, you’re at home, you’re back in the studio. And so, everyone’s sharpened those skills quite a bit at rapid adjustment over the past few years. I think that they’re probably better suited to it.”

Real Time with Bill Maher — which was about to return before the WGA strike ended until Maher changed his mind — could return as early as this Friday.