David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, announced Friday that it reached an independent agreement with the Writers Guild of America to allow its two late-night shows to return to production with their writing staffs.
As the writers’ strike stretches into a third month, the WGA is holding up the deal as evidence that it is willing to negotiate in good faith and that its proposals are reasonable.
The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, both on CBS, return to the air Jan. 2. NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live are set to resume production on the same date but without writers.
“I am grateful to the WGA for granting us this agreement. We’re happy to be going back to work and particularly pleased to be doing it with our writers,” Letterman said in a statement. “This is not a solution to the strike, which unfortunately continues to disrupt the lives of thousands. But I hope it will be seen as a step in the right direction.”
Rob Burnett, president and CEO of Worldwide Pants and executive producer of The Late Show, added in a statement: “This is a positive result, both for the WGA and for our shows, and we are appreciative that the leaders of the guild dealt with us reasonably and in good faith.”
In a statement, the WGA characterized the independent deal as “a comprehensive agreement that addresses the issues important to writers, particularly new media,” and praised Worldwide Pants for accepting “the very same proposals that the guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations Dec. 7.”
“Today’s agreement dramatically illustrates that the Writers Guild wants to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously, a fair and reasonable deal can be reached quickly,” the WGA added. “It’s time for NBC Universal to step up to the plate and negotiate a companywide deal that will put Jay Leno, who has supported our cause from the beginning, back on the air with his writers.”
In a letter sent to guild members late Friday, WGA East president Michael Winship and WGA West president Patric Verrone lashed out at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for failing to be “a productive avenue for an agreement.”
“As a result,” they continued, “we are seeking deals with individual signatories. The Worldwide Pants deal is the first. We hope it will encourage other companies, especially large employers, to seek and reach agreements with us.”
Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg applauded the agreement and affirmed that SAG members “will be happy to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with union writers at work and without crossing WGA picket lines.”
"While it is good news for viewers that the jokes will be back on the late-night shows, the biggest joke of all appears to be the one the WGA's organizers are pulling on working writers," the AMPTP responded in a statement late Friday.
"The people in charge at WGA have insisted on increasing their own power by prevailing on jurisdictional issues such as reality, animation and sympathy strikes," the AMPTP added. "Yet today, the WGA made an interim agreement to send writers back to work that by definition could not have achieved these jurisdictional goals -- gains that would at a minimum require the company making an agreement to actually produce reality and animation programming."
The AMPTP concluded, "The WGA's organizers are also misrepresenting the fact that Worldwide Pants is an AMPTP member. Today's agreement is just the latest indication that the WGA's organizers may not have what it takes to achieve an industrywide deal that will create a strong and sustainable economic future for writers and producers alike."
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