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Carson Daly returns to work... Will other late-nighters follow?

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We’ll have to wait until Monday —€“ when an original episode of Last Call airs on NBC at 1:35 in the morning — to learn why Carson Daly decided to cross the picket line today (Nov. 28) and resume production on his late-night yakker, as he’s not talking to the press or allowing them into today’s taping in Los Angeles. What we do know is that the WGA is none too pleased by his decision. “We’re disappointed at Carson Daly’s decision to work,” a Guild statement reads. “Mr. Daly is not a writer and not a member of the WGA, unlike other late-night hosts Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel, who have all resisted network pressure and honored our writers’ picket lines. We hope he’ll change his mind and follow the lead of the other late-night hosts.”

That doesn’t seem likely. Averaging 1.17 million weekly viewers, Last Call is the least-watched late-night talk show on the Big Three Nets, so Daly could be hoping to gain traction while the other shows remain in repeats. One striking showrunner from Daly’s own network couldn’t even fault the former TRL host, saying Wednesday, “Hey, he’s got the playground all to himself. I don’t blame him.”

No doubt buoying Daly’s decision to go  back to work are the revelations that showrunners are quietly working behind the scenes to keep their shows in production, despite calls from the WGA for everyone to respect the picket line. Though these writer-producer hyphenates continue to follow the “pens down” rule enforced by the WGA, many are doing their best to keep production continuing on completed scripts by performing their non-writing duties —€“ if only to keep their crews employed until the last possible minute. As a result, many dramas, like ABC’s Brothers & Sisters and Boston Legal, are continuing to shoot, though all should run out of scripts by early next month if the strike is not resolved. Negotiations continued today in an undisclosed Los Angeles hotel.

Meanwhile, the nets still don’t know when — or if — the rest of the late-night stars will come back to work. “We’re just doing it day by day,” says one network spokesperson.