Hard news on ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Daily Show’ – return date now set

I just got a tip in my e-mail: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are headed back into the studios on (deep breath) January 7th.

“‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ will resume production on January 7 with both shows returning to air that night without their respective writing staffs. The January 7 return follows a scheduled two-week, end-of-year hiatus that was previously built into the shows’ production calendars. We continue to hold out hope for a swift resolution to the current stalemate that will enable the shows to be complete again.” — Comedy Central

“We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence.” — Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Please don’t shoot the messenger (i.e. please please please try to keep the comments clean and relatively non-accusatory).


EDIT:

According to the NY Times TV Decoder Blog: “Both hosts are Writers Guild of America members, and a spokeswoman for the guild said it had no comment on their decisions to return.”

Comments

  1. mermaidkween says:

    I guess we get a half-hour interview with fewer funny questions, then?

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  2. hard done by says:

    @ Dan “and both [jon and stephen ] could walk away with promising careers”

    and work for who though?Wouldn`t they be breaking legally binding contracts if they walked?

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  3. Well, I guess, I’ll check it out, and then I’ll go and boycott it. I refuse to watch sub quality crap. I take it, it’ll be highly embarrassing for JS and SC, as everybody will now see how much they rely on their writers.

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  4. barenjager says:

    Erika,

    I read and appreciate your post.

    I’ve been reading comments on other blogs and one way or another people are talking about C and S as heroes or champions. Either they are asking “Where are your liberal Champions now, suckers!?”

    Or they are celebrating the return of these two champions who will bring the AMPTP to their knees with their well crafted–(I mean, off the cuff) admonishments. (Just like they brought the Bush administration down).

    Either way, it’s not good. And the worst part about it that this image of them as heroes has already become a marketing ploy, an angle.

    In fact, I suspect a lot of commenters who talk about how great it will be to have Letterman and C and S on tv slamming the AMPTP of being shills for the studios to bring audiences back.

    I can just see Sumner Redstone giggling his wicked old butt off at Stewart’s railing about the strike, the injustice. “Yes! Yes! Give in to your anger! With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.”

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  5. Well said, Erika! You perfectly articulate why people are feeling personally slighted, and why they shouldn’t be. It’s easy for us to get too personally invested in people that we admire. I think we need to take a step back and just think about the situation.

    I do not think what they are doing is wrong, however I don’t think what they’re doing is exactly right, either. That’s exactly where the confusion seems to be coming from. A lot of people feel like you’re either with the writers or you’re against them, when it’s not that simple. This is an issue that is dividing people that a month ago were all unquestioningly on the same side. It’s not doing anybody any good by throwing the word “scab” around. If it’s doing anything, it’s hurting the cause. It’s weakening the writers’ cause, and it’s splintering people apart. That’s exactly what the AMPTP wants!

    We must stay unified — and that doesn’t have to mean that everyone agrees with everyone else, but at the least it should mean that we continue to support each other and work together in SOME way to achieve the common goals.

    It reminds me a lot of why the democrats have been failing so bad in recent memory in the same places that the republicans have thrived. The difference between the two? The republicans support each other, and at least in public will put on the face that they are a unified party. The democrats are finally starting to realize this. We MUST stay unified. Everyone is still in the same boat as they were when this whole mess started, it’s just that circumstances change. We can’t stop that from happening, but we have to adjust. And we can’t turn our backs on one another.

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  6. @ Erika, others – Sorry, crossing a picket line to get to work *is* the definition of scabbing. Particularly if your work *is* the job folks are picketing. Nuance in this situation is just sad liberal schmaltz. WGA writers aren’t ‘maybe’ on strike, they ‘are’ on strike. So it is a yes or no, binary kind of decision. (I usually find schmaltz quite funny and charming, so its not like I’m trying to be unfair here.)

    @ hard done by – I’m not too close an observer, but I don’t see how comedy central has any other hope than J & C. Their shows really drive advertising and anchor the whole weekday evening. They’re the only reason CC can even play in the talk-show time slot. Seems to me that whether on their own show on CC, or some other configuration somewhere else, the 2 would be pretty sexy to any producer who could afford them – after the strike, too.

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  7. There are ways of watching this without giving viacom any ratings. guess the quality of the shows will drop so low that I almost feel obligated to watch the shows in a sneaky manner. As a european I thought CC struck gold when they opened Dailyshow.com. looks like fools gold to me now that no one but the moguls get paid for it. not a good tactic if you want to persuade people to watch legit

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  8. mrtigger001 says:

    @CeCe Camden – I think the worst thing plaguing us fans is the lack of information. Right now, we only know Jon and Stephen’s end actions, but not their motivations or the decisions leading up to them.

    Let me give you a scenario. A man breaks into a drug store and steals some very expensive drugs. Now, if that was all the information we knew from the media, then we can all assume the man is a crook and a thief.

    Now, what if I told you that man was from Kohlberg’s Moral Dilemma, and he stole the drugs because he could not afford them and he needed to cure his dying wife? Is he still a crook/thief? Did that make the stealing right? Different people will still respond differently, but it’s a lot less black & white.

    So our greatest enemy dividing us right now is the lack of information. All we know is what Jon and Stephen ended up doing. We don’t know why they did it.

    The more loyal fans are making assumptions about Jon and Stephen’s character and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Those more skeptical of the human condition aren’t giving them that benefit. That’s totally fine. But I don’t think neither side will get anywhere until more information surfaces.

    So please reserve final judgment until then.

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  9. mrtigger001 says:

    @dan my above post is in response to yours as well. i understand you may have strong feelings about the scabbing, but I refuse to believe Jon and Stephen arrived at this scenario without some terribly difficult decision-making. yes, i am one of the fanboys that are giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    and nuance isn’t liberal schmaltzing. It’s how real life works. At least in my experience.

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  10. I do not doubt that it was a difficult decision; its just worth being clear that they made the wrong one. There’s the picket line, that’s them, telling the world they’re going to cross it.

    By way of hyperbolic unfair analogy, the problem with that “with us or against us” frame was that we (well, I at least) rejected the terms and got disgusted when our elected leaders accepted it.

    Similarly here, it creates real cognitive dissonance when “writers are good” “jon and stephen are good” and “bosses are bad,” but jon and stephen decide to go to work, clearly benefitting the bosses. I don’t like the frame, but its real.

    Just as I concluded ‘if by *us* you mean war mongering liars, then I’m against you,’ I boil this down to ‘if by going back to work, you mean benefiting the bosses’ bargaining position against the writers, well, I guess I have to be against you too.’ I don’t like the terms, but binary questions get binary answers.

    On the up side, we can probably all expect the show to be nearly unwatchable without writers anyway.

    Not much more to say, other that I’m really not happy to make the difficult decision that I can not respect Jon and Stephen’s difficult decision.

    w00t w00t!

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  11. I’m a fan of their show, but not enough to justify supporting strikebreakers, or companies that advertise on a scab show.

    Man, I really wish they hadn’t of done this, but my convictions are pretty firm – as a lifelong union member, I can’t support someone who violates a picket during a union-sanctioned strike. If I do it for them, someone will do it when I have to strike, and there goes the entire purpose of the union.

    It’s difficult, but that said, I have to make the only ethical decision, which of course goes against what I want – thus the difficulty. And I guess this means I need to stand by my decision and not watch them any more in the future, which sucks.

    I’m especially pissed that they’re forcing me to do this. I’m a huge fanboy, but there’s no gray area here. You either support the union or break the picket. Period.

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  12. Dan @ 11:42:

    I understand the definition of scabbing and am not arguing whether or not Stewart and Colbert fit the definition. Frankly, it’s irrelevant to me, because I don’t think throwing the scab label is productive (regardless of whether it applies). As a consumer and an observer of this strike, I don’t base my support of “The Daily Show/The Colbert Report” and their hosts on whether or not they are scabs. “Scab” is not a deal-breaker for me (whether it is for writers, I’ll comment on later.)

    From a PR perspective, I’m simply saying I can sympathize with Stewart and Colbert and will not vilify them–which is what union hard-liners seem to want us (the public) to do. And what I’m saying is, “Not gonna happen.”

    All I care about is that they ultimately continue to deliver quality content in the long run. Aha–this is at stake, I know. But the strike will end one day. And I would hope that plenty of writers will continue to work with people who’ve decided (whether from obligation, their conscience, whatever) to cross the picket line. Because if they don’t, that would only be a disservice to the public. (Of course, I understand if writers, during the strike, *ahem* SAY they won’t…)

    Yes, WGA is on strike. Yes, Stewart and Colbert have crossed the picket line. Yes, it’s a wretched development. Yes, labor vs. management fights are ugly, take-no-prisoners, “with us or against us” bloodbaths in order for each side to get the most they can out of it. And yes, Stewart and Colbert are casualties in this minefield Cluster*!@& to the Bargaining Table.

    But seriously, the late night shows–by their very nature–were vulnerable targets from the very beginning, and surely the WGA knew that they would probably have to write these off as losses. I say they should weather it with some grace and move on, hold firm in the ways they can. But slamming Stewart and Colbert is like shooting the hostages.

    If the union hard-liners want the public on their side (and maybe they’re willing to snub that, too, I don’t know), fight the good fight. Stewart and Colbert are assets that are no longer in play, so be it. But it’s not a good idea to alienate them, their fans, and therefore some of the people who buy the writers’ work.

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  13. Dan @ 11:42 wrote:
    “Seems to me that whether on their own show on CC, or some other configuration somewhere else, the 2 would be pretty sexy to any producer who could afford them – after the strike, too.”

    Sure, but Stewart built “The Daily Show” into what it is, practically from the ground up. Same with Colbert and “The Colbert Report.” These shows are their babies. Jon’s been courted by the networks; he has said he’s happy doing what he’s doing and staying where he is, and that network money–albeit tempting–isn’t enough to make him give up “Daily Show.” Maybe for some people, it’s “give me fair compensation or give me death, I’m outta here” (and I can certainly appreciate that), but maybe for Jon and Stephen, they love these shows madly.

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  14. Dan @ 1:59:

    But cognitive dissonance is a fact of life–arising out of the complexity of reality. And I think the only way to resolve cognitive dissonance is to accept nuance and reject blanket judgment.

    The way I see it:

    - Writers are neither good nor bad. Writers are a group of people whose common goal of getting fair compensation is good.

    - Jon and Stephen seem like upstanding individuals who’ve often said things we agree with and applaud.

    - Bosses are neither good nor bad. But they as a group are being bad monkeys right now.

    Jon and Stephen will be doing something that may help the bad monkeys. That does not automatically make them bad guys. Maybe they reason that their decision will not help the bad monkeys too much, nor hurt the writers too much, while it will help their non-bad selves and staff a whole heck of a lot, by keeping them from getting axed and therefore becoming definitely no good to anybody.

    I guess I just don’t see what the problem is. I think the “good guy or bad guy” view of things is dangerous and unrealistic. I don’t think being “good” is about staying on one side of the line all the time. It’s about taking into account the overall circumstances each step of the way. Not, for example, voting straight-ticket in every election or sticking to the same war strategy.

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  15. @ Erin @ 10:25: thanks! And I agree with the points you made.

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  16. Barenjager,

    re: your post @ 9:21

    Thanks.

    The whole thing with Jon and Stephen as either “traitors to the liberal cause” or “heroes who will stick it the The Man” is absurd, isn’t it? Well, maybe it’s one part rabid idealism, two parts celebrity culture, and seven parts bile-spewers and shills who think that people don’t think for themselves. Noise, noise, noise.

    As for Emperor Palpastone… I say, well, fine, let the conglomerates enjoy their scraps (because it’s inevitable that their ratings will pick up–unless Jon and Stephen bomb horrifically, which I doubt; people may be willing to watch them stare at the camera for 22 minutes for all we know). As Alli @ 9:44 pointed out, these late night shows are only a drop in the bucket. With everything else the WGA is withholding, let’s hope it’s enough leverage to get a swift and fair resolution.

    I also think it’s possible to show simultaneous support for the striking writers and Stewart and Colbert. I’ll be writing the AMPTP, Viacom/Comedy Central, and their advertisers, telling them that I enjoy these shows and their hosts, and of course I’m not looking forward to torrents courtesy of non-Nielsen viewers and episodes that end up on YouTube. And that I very much look forward to re-subscribing to cable, and revisiting dailyshow.com and comedycentral.com, when and only when the writers strike has been resolved.

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  17. I’m not going to voice an opinion on the morality of Stewart or Colbert coming back to their shows. I fall in the wait until the episodes air, see how they’re going to use those first 22 minutes camp.

    What I will say is that Stewart’s appearance on Crossface and Colbert’s at the Press Corps Dinner prove that both are not afraid to create an uncomfortable situation to make a point. True, both of those appearances were single shot appearances and not on their own playgrounds, but maybe with TDS a ratings lock though the November elections (and Stewart’s contract with CC locked until, what, 2010), with Colbert’s best selling author status and presumably equally high ratings as well, perhaps they feel comfortable enough to play the uncomfortable situation game on their own courts?

    Would such a game diminish their value to CC or other networks once the strike ends, probably not. I think its important to realize that Viacom is not in the Entertainment Business. No, they are in the _Make Money From_ Entertainment Business. Look at Peter Jackson’s dispute with New Line as another example.

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  18. I know they are not superheroes, but I was shocked to hear they would cross the picket lines.

    Whatever else I say or wish, if they do go back on air I will not watch. In fact, I may stop watching altogether.

    What a shame.

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  19. Erika @ 532- hope this isn’t a flame war yet – I think its a pretty good conversation.

    re: “But cognitive dissonance is a fact of life–arising out of the complexity of reality. And I think the only way to resolve cognitive dissonance is to accept nuance and reject blanket judgment.”

    … which, practically speaking, doesn’t really get us anywhere (thus, schmaltz). Nor does it get folks back to work any sooner.

    I’m not a wga member, but I do work for a different labor union, so I’ve kind of resolved this moral dilemma very clearly for myself years ago. Striking workers get solidarity, strikebreakers get shame, and bosses get the pointy sticks (figuratively, of course).

    In the spirit of not really knowing how the wga leadership is thinking about this, I’ll leave it there: I’m incredibly disappointed in Jon and Stephen; I think I’ve made the point here clearly, but I’m not going very far out of my way to make it any more.

    At the end of the day (literally), TDS and TCR are really the only TV shows I regularly watch, so while disappointed, I don’t have a lot at stake. I’ll not watch while the strike is on, and once the strike is over, I doubt it.

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  20. I support their decision to return. There are what, ten writers on the show? It is so easy to forget the rest of the production crew; we got camera-men, stage-hands, interns, PAs, editors, gaffers, researchers, drivers, make-up people, assistants, wardrobe, etc., all people trying to pay for ridiculously expensive New York housing and praying that the Writer’s Strike ends soon so they can go back to work. I’m sure when the show goes on again, Jon and Stephen will make it obvious that the show is torn apart without their writers, and they’ll make that point while helping their other staff pay rent.

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  21. There’s a word for people who cross picket lines – scab. And that’s a hypocrisy in their much vaunted progressive values that Stewart and Colbert will have to deal with. I’m going to watch the first show to see how they handle it. But they’re really taking away the effectiveness of the strike from the writers by getting their shows back on the air, no matter how they split the hairs and try to justify it. This strike is justified – the studios make millions from the writers. What Colbert and Stewart are showing is really cowardice in the face of studio pressure. I won’t be watching, and given my loss of respect for them, I’m not so sure I’ll have the stomach to watch them anymore when the strike is over either, as all their progressive values will seem like so much hypocrisy. It’s great to talk about issues in the abstract, but pretty weak when you can’t do that for your own fellow union members who you know and work with personally.

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  22. My initial reaction was disappointment, but I’m really going to have to know more about their plans and their decision-making process before I can make any judgement calls.

    If I were Stephen, I’d sit around and do a sudoku or something for the entirety of the show. That’d likely produce even less revenue than the reruns Comedy Central is currently airing.

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  23. The majority of people who watch these shows wont be boycotting them, so the advertising dollars will continue to roll in. Getting a staff of 100 back to work is important, but what about the other thousands of staff out of work because of the strike? Going back on air will only prolong the strike for everyone else.

    And I find it really hard to believe that Comedy Central would somehow cancel their show. Without the Daily show and Colbert report they’d practically go out of business.

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  24. Dan @ 7:37,

    Naw, I certainly don’t consider this a flame war, just a candid discussion, and I agree it’s a good one.

    I had written:
    “I think the only way to resolve cognitive dissonance is to accept nuance and reject blanket judgment.”

    You replied:
    “which, practically speaking, doesn’t really get us anywhere (thus, schmaltz). ”

    What you call schmaltz (defined “excessive sentimentality”), I rather see as “not being judgmental and intolerant.” But I’m glad you clarified why you call it that, because it makes clear that we’re discussing two different questions with two different goals for this conversation.

    Re: whether [schmaltz/not being judgmental and intolerant ;-)] gets us anywhere… If you’re talking about “us” as in those pushing for as swift a resolution to the strike as possible, then I agree, because calling them scabs is a logical tactical move. If you’re talking about “us” as in those who are chewing over Stewart and Colbert’s decision and what we think of them, then I disagree; it gets us just as far as calling them scabs does–it elucidates where we stand as fans/viewers/observers.

    You wrote:
    “Nor does it get folks back to work any sooner.”

    True. So I think we’re looking at it from two different angles here:

    “Is their decision right for the strike’s purposes?” vs.

    “Is their decision right?”

    The latter is a broader question and it’s that question that I’m really interested in.

    To me what it boils down to is this: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have the right to do what they judge best for themselves. Pure and simple. And we are not entitled to pass judgment.

    So though I won’t presume to say if they’re right, I will say–from my impression based on their work, interviews, and public appearances–that I believe they are conscionable, honorable people, and I will believe that they’ve made their decision with due consideration, true to their own conscience. As I said earlier, this is ultimately all anyone can be expected to do.

    Some people feel that Stewart and Colbert are now morally compromised, and to that I say–for whatever it’s worth–that as an activist in environmental/public policy advocacy/civil liberties organizations, I’ve found that one’s convictions are not always best served by adhering to the official stance. I don’t always agree with the organizations that I’m a member of, I don’t always march in lockstep fighting their fights. That is not only my right; that is more importantly how I stay true to my own beliefs about what is both right to do and worth doing, and what isn’t, and at what cost.

    Strikes don’t allow for such individual discretion, because they depend on everyone showing solidarity no matter what. And as American (for lack of a better way of expressing it) as unions are, so too is exercising one’s free will and breaking rank. The truth is everyone’s priorities differ in some way, everyone’s got something different at stake, everyone has a different threshold for what’s not acceptable. I have no problem with that, and that is essentially why even the scab label (which I still am not even convinced applies, but that’s beside the point) is not a deal-breaker for me.

    On another note…

    I think this issue has forced a question: Why are we fans of Stewart and Colbert? Is it because we see them as champions of our various causes, or is it because we simply enjoy their work?

    I admit sometimes it’s both for me, but ultimately I’m in the latter camp. I don’t want to project my personal politics upon these two men (what good is that? I like freethinkers). At the end of the day, I simply admire Stewart and Colbert for the work they do, and the intelligence, humor, and human decency with which they do it. There is no hypocrisy. Jon has flatly and repeatedly eschewed any talk of being a political/media/social critic. Both have repeatedly asserted that they are comedians. So even if we had a right to judge their morals (which again, we don’t), I think we should remember that they never agreed to be co-opted into people’s various ideological causes. There are no pretenses that have been made and therefore none shattered. Furthermore, how many times have we ourselves done things at odds with one or more of our ideals? Often it’s not hypocrisy so much having conflicting concerns, and having to sacrifice something we care about for the sake of something else that we feel is more important.

    And cowardice? I don’t think there’s any basis to accuse them of this. We don’t know all the facts, we don’t know their motivations. So if we want to call it cowardice, how about we instead ask ourselves: Are we really just angry at Jon and Stephen for their decision, wanting to figuratively bully and shame them for not doing as we think they should/as we think we ourselves would?

    Well, I for one am not interested in being an armchair critic on something that 1) I have insufficient knowledge and perspective about, as well as no business judging in the first place, and 2) in the big scheme of things happening in the world, is not even that big of a deal.

    The writers strike will end one day. The writers will go back to work with a deal. Jon and Stephen will continue doing what they do best: giving us relevant, thought-provoking humor. And anyone who wants to tune in to this–courtesy of Stewart and Colbert, together with their writers and their crew–can. Everything will be okay.

    Stepping back and looking at this (and reminding myself that this is, in fact, a *Colbert* fan site), I can’t help but wonder if us critics are seriously this upset, or if we’re actually engaging in Colbertian (non-trademarked) hyperbole, raging against two comedians we love, turning on them for once, indulging in our own brand of snark in order to scratch an itch, and enjoying the perversion…

    But alas, no, I don’t think so. Interestingly, this criticism of Stewart and Colbert reminds me of a point Jon once made to Bill O’Reilly, about the US railing against France for not supporting us in the war. Bill’s stance was basically, “France is an enemy because they’re supposed to be our friends, and they’re not acting like friends in the way we’re defining it.” But Jon’s point was that it’d be more useful to rail against Saudi Arabia instead, because they’re the ones responsible for actual harm–the real enemies, at the heart of the problem.

    The real enemies in this are the AMPTP. Strike “rules of engagement” notwithstanding, isn’t it better to save the ire for them instead?

    Anyway, I understand the disapproval some of us have expressed, but Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are solid in my book, and I love these guys as much as I ever have.

    Cheers.

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  25. @ imoldfashioned @ 4:35

    “how great is it that they released a joint statement?”

    Yeah, that struck me as a very nice touch. It’s been so long since I’ve “heard” them say anything, anywhere, that to hear them–saying something gracious, and together, and in fine, clever, good-natured form–was an instant picker-upper.

    I’m hearing more of Jon’s sardonic wit than Stephen’s vertigo-inducing topspin, but I’m not complaining.

    Okay, I’ll leave y’all in peace now… Happy holidays!

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  26. *my head hurts*

    I pretty much feel torn right now. I’m not a Nielsen household, so apparently boycotting will be pretty much ineffective…and although I feel for the writers, there are still all those innocent staff members who are only involved in this mess because their jobs do not, as of right now, exist.

    I hate moral decision making…

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