It was somehow both fitting and sobering that on the anniversaries of both the day and the day of the week that Johnny Carson took over THE TONIGHT SHOW 61 years ago and forever changed the viewing habits and the way a majority of people learn about the news that the STRIKE FORCE FIVE all returned to their respective battle stations to bring at least some semblance of original scripted television back. And not a moment too soon.
By their own admission, the novelty and playfulness of the podcast that the Jimmys (Fallon and Kimmel), Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and John Oliver had forged like a comedic Justice League to feed their staffs and give them something constructive to do had waned. They needed to expand their world beyond just current “late night” talk show hosts as guests, featuring a second Jon (Stewart) and the de facto heir to Carson, David Letterman, just to keep things novel. One only suspects James Corden might have chimed in and, heaven forbid, one of the Craigs (Ferguson or Kilborn) if the WGA strike had continued much longer. And, frankly, left to their own devices, none of those personalities were all that compelling or well-liked anyway.
But last night, amidst a decent amount of fanfare and news coverage, the four weeknight hosts all went back to the wars, leaning heavily on scripted monologue material that showcases exactly why those that struck are soooo much better than AI and how these shows are at their best when they are not part of the “car wash” promotional wave for celebrities to hock their upcoming streaming series and attempt small talk, often with a nervous publicist in the wings frantically sending notes or texts to be sure to reinforce the drop date. And, dutifully, DEADLINE’s Peter White felt this was compelling enough news to warrant each of the returns to have their own separate story.
First up: Stephen Colbert returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater to a standing ovation. “It feels good to be back, it feels good to be back with all of you in the Ed Sullivan Theater because after the first few months of the strike, Evie refused to keep chanting my name,” he joked.
Then: Seth Meyers opened his first Late Night show in five months with a long list of thank yous. The comedian returns to NBC with an hour-long version of A Closer Look, his political segment, in which he touches on all of the news that broke over the summer. But before he got into Trump indictments and lumpy pillows (see below), Meyers said that he was “grateful” to be back. “I never take this show for granted but being away from it for as long as I’ve been away from it really hits home how much I love having this as a workplace,” he said.
Next: Jimmy Kimmel is back with a little help from Arnold Schwarzenegger. The comedian, who hosts the eponymous ABC show, revealed the one joke that he really missed during the five months that he was off the air. “Every time something happened in the news, I would get texts asking me if I was bummed we didn’t have a show that night. Mostly, I was fine but the one that really got me was when they booked Trump in Georgia and he self-reported his weight at 215 pounds. I almost crossed the picket line for that,” Kimmel joked.
Last but not least, the show that arguably started all of this: Jimmy Fallon kicked off his first Tonight Show back and he’s excited. “I am so excited to be here. I am so excited. Seriously. I’m more excited than a guy seeing Beetlejuice with Lauren Boebert. I’m more excited than a Jets fan during the first three plays of the season. Everyone’s excited, today my dad called me up to say he can finally watch Kimmel again,” he said.
Peter White watched a lot of TV last night but, like the majority of those that still do watch these shows, he didn’t watch them in real time on a linear TV. He’s in the unique position to be able to see “wild feeds” of these shows provided to press that match the window of when these shows are sent to their affiliates, typically early evening, which any year now Peacock Premium subscibers will have the option to do for Meyers and Fallon. You Tube clips of these shows are often dropped immediately after the shows air on the East Coast, all but making the need to stay up late as earlier generations did for Carson, and even, on occasion, competitors like Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin, all but moot.
But as HUFFPOST’s Ed Mazza reported, apparently some older viewers still haven’t caught on:
Trump Just Threw A Middle-Of-The-Night Tantrum Over Late Shows Mocking Him
“Now that the “strike” is over, the talentless, low rated CREEPS of Late Night Television are back,” Donald Trump ranted on his Truth Social website. “I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to see it settled – True LOSERS!!!” In another post, he called them “poorly rated and not at all funny” and claimed the shows were a “major” campaign contribution to Democrats.
News flash, Cyrus: Hatewatching still counts in ratings. So, for at least one night, they’re less “poorly rated”, thanks in part to YOU.
And with a winter of indictments and the fact that SAG-AFTRA still hasn’t agreed to go back to back to work (nor should they), there’s going to be a lot of opportunity to give the STRIKE FORCE FIVE and their writers the opportunity to take their lightning bolts and aim them in your direction.
I, for one, am particularly partial to Meyers, who actually used one of my jokes on air a couple of years back. Well, not a joke, per se. Meyers’ most ardent fans are called “Jackals” and regularly fact-check his content via comments, which I felt compelled to do after one of his less political targets, Spirit Airlines, was called out for not offering cross-country service from LaGuardia Airport. Well, because of an FAA loophole that allows one weekend flight beyond a certain milege limit to do so, I happened to be ON SUCH A FLIGHT while I was catching up with the week’s CLOSER LOOK clips and screenshot my digital ticket as proof. Meyers’ niggly staff filled in the details and gave me credit the next week on his wonderfully meticulous online companion show CORRECTIONS.
Well, now I have a chance to perhaps merit some sort of inspiration for the actual show.
One can only hope the news cycle can perhaps come back to some sort of normal where Spirit Airlines’ lack of service can be more of a priority. My mention happened early into the Biden administration during the Summer of Love, when a certain obese tweeter hadn’t quite gotten Truth Social off the ground.
Well, obviously, that’s not the case now. Besides, there’s that nice little nook amidst all of those boxes that’s perfect for hatewatching, and one can only hope his stomach is turned over enough so that even he may be nauseated by the odor that these monologues will cause him.
When I couldn’t sleep a couple of weeks ago, an umpteenth “best of” Meyers clip revived his observations about that bathroom. Old news? Hell ya.
I look forward to new news. And, G-d willing, more topics.
For now, go get ’em, gents.
Until next time…