Late-night shows return after writers strike as actors resume talks that could end their standoff

LOS ANGELES – Late-night talk shows began their return to the air after a five-month absence brought on by the Hollywood writers strike, while actors completed the first day of talks that could end their own long work walk-off.

CBS’s “ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” ABC’s “ Jimmy Kimmel Live! ” and NBC’s “ The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon ” were the first shows to leave the air when the writers strike began on May 2, and were among the first to return with fresh airings Monday night.

Colbert blew a leaping kiss to his audience, which chanted his name as he took the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York for the early evening taping of his show that airs at 11:35 p.m. Eastern.

“It feels good to be back,” the host said. “Now the writers strike is over with a new contract that includes protections against AI, cost of living increases, better pay for streaming, plus, thanks to the picket lines, my writers got fresh air and sunshine, and they do not care for that. Now they’re back safely in their joke holes.”

In a cold open to his show, Kimmel was shown on a psychiatrist’s couch.

“The strike has been going on so long, I just don’t know if I’ll be back,” Kimmel said. The shot then reveals that the therapist is his first guest Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declares, in a variation on his best-known catchphrase: “You’ll be back.”

Fallon taped segments for his show with Matthew McConaughey and John Mayer. He then said a third guest would be Bono from U2, who played the opening of the new Sphere venue in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Read More:   Health experts decry New Zealand’s reversal on world-first tobacco ban

A phony Bono came out encased in a small sphere. The bit fell flat, and Fallon suggested it may take some time to shake the rust off.

“I should mention not all the writers are back,” he said.

Seth Meyers, the former “Saturday Night Live” head writer whose show follows Fallon’s, praised the union’s negotiators for the deal they won, and the chance to return.

“I am so happy to be back in a room with my writers, everybody. I missed my writers so much,” he said. Then joked, “I will admit by lunch I was a little over it.”

Colbert lamented having been unable to weigh in with jokes about so much news for so many months.

“I believe we have been off the air for 154 indictments,” he said. “It was a crazy summer to be off. It was just packed with events.”

The hosts haven’t been entirely idle. They teamed up for a podcast, “ Strike Force Five,” during the strike.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists began negotiations Monday with the same group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, for the first time since they joined writers in a historic dual strike on July 14. The two sides will resume talks Wednesday.

The writers were allowed to return to work last week after the Writers Guild of America reached an agreement on a three-year contract with an alliance of the industry’s biggest studios, streaming services and production companies.

Union leaders touted the deal as a clear win on issues including pay, size of staffs and the use of artificial intelligence that made the months off worth it. The writers themselves will vote on the contract in a week of balloting that began Monday.

Read More:   Mentors, Senate rebels and Trump officials: Meet Speaker Mike Johnson’s inner circle

Actors walked off the job over many of the same issues as writers, and SAG-AFTRA leaders said they would look closely at the gains and compromises of the WGA’s deal, but emphasized that their demands would remain the same as they were when the strike began.

The two sides said in a joint statement that “several executives” from studios would be in on the talks, without providing names. But Disney CEO Bob Iger, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav, and NBCUniversal Studio Group Chief Content Officer Donna Langley all took part directly in the negotiations with writers.

The late-night shows will have significant limits on their guest lists. Their bread and butter, actors appearing to promote projects, will not be allowed to appear if the movies and shows are for studios that are the subject of the strikes.

But exceptions abound. McConaughey, for example, appeared with Fallon to promote his children’s book, “Just Because.”

And SAG-AFTRA has granted interim agreements allowing actors to work on many productions, and with that comes the right of actors to publicly promote them.