All right, all right. So I have totally derailed my own meme. Sorry about that. I'll get back to it.
It appears that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will be returning with new episodes on January 7th. Without their writers.
As a writer by trade myself, I have been supporting the Writers' Guild strike by not watching the reruns and crappy reality TV shows the networks have been airing in place of stuff they actually have to pay people to write. I have been resisting the impulse to buy or rent DVDs to fill up my empty television schedule (since DVD residuals are one of the issues currently in dispute).
But, all that's been easy, really. I hate bad reality TV shows. I have better things to do than watch reruns. And my bank account is better off without the DVD purchases.
Can I resist the siren call of Jon and Stephen?
I've been wondering what I would do if the shows came back on the air. I support the writers' strike, and yet, I also honestly believe TDS and the Colbert Report provide a public service, in a very similar fashion as "real" news shows, like, say, NBC's Nightly News, or Meet the Press, do, in that, many people treat The Daily Show and the Colbert Report as their primary news source.
That may sound ridiculous given these shows are presented as comedy, but, in fact, regular Daily Show viewers have been shown to be better informed about American politics than people who rely on newspapers like the New York Times.
Regular news shows have continued to air their programming during the writers' strike, with no protest from the WGA, because providing news is a public service. Should The Daily Show and the Colbert Report be judged as news shows, or as late-night comedy entertainment?
It appears, from this statement released by WGA on the matter, that the Stewart and Colbert may not have had much of a choice about going back to work before the resolution of the strike:
“Comedy Central forcing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert back on the air will not give the viewers the quality shows they’ve come to expect. The only way to get the writing staffs back on the job is for the AMPTP companies to come back to the table prepared to negotiate a fair deal with the Writers Guild.”
It seems from this quote that the WGA believes Colbert and Stewart were told to go back on the air, or risk permanently losing their timeslot. But so far I have not been able to find further information to either confirm or contradict that notion.
So, what do you think? Are Jon and Stephen being greedy jerks for crossing the picket lines, or does their job as providers of news and political analysis, especially during primary season, trump their responsibility to the Guild? If Comedy Central indeed threatened to cancel the shows altogether (and thus put hundreds of staff besides the writers out of a job), does that in and of itself justify a return, or should they have called Comedy Central's bluff?
Will you watch?