It has been reported recently that Jon Stewart and Stephen Tiberius Colbert, D.F.A, will be reporting back to their respective shows on January 7, 2008.  I should be the happiest guy in the world — living without these men has been one of the emptiest times in my life.  But I have this crummy feeling that they’re doing something wrong by coming back before the WGA strike is over.

Of course, Colbert and Stewart will come back without their writing staffs to support them.  Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno are also returning to the air (a few days earlier, Jan. 2), and they are coming back without their writers, too.  But it’s a different game; Conan should have no problem being entertaining on his own, since the best moments on the show are the ones where he is allowed to ad-lib.  The Daily Show, though, has only come to a spot of international acclaim and respect because of the hard work of its writers.

It isn’t yet known how the shows will be run.  On each, only the third act is an unscripted interview, and on The Colbert Report it’s often shortened for time constraints.  Unlike Conan, these two can’t exist without their writers.  Colbert is a bit better than Stewart on his feet, but crafting the character he portrays truly takes a team effort.  These are two talented men, but they aren’t superhuman — don’t expect too much out of their programs for a while.

And then, looking beyond the possible drop-off in quality these brilliant shows might suffer, lies the possibility that crossing picket lines before the strike is over is dealing a blow to the striking WGA members.  Since I wrote an article on it for the Targum in November, which featured a wonderful interview with a wonderful WGA member, I’ve been dead-set against the networks in the fight for intellectual property rights. As an informed onlooker, I feel that Stewart and Colbert are making a mistake.  Both men came out in full support of the WGA and of their staff, and now it feels like Viacom scare tactics got the better of them.

I’m sure they’ll still support the WGA strike, but actions speak louder than words.  I love both of them, and I think that what they do for TV and for America is something our kids will read about in their history books.  But I can’t shake that feeling that right now, they’re on the wrong side of the fence.

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