Ratings quest intersects picket line

Comedy Central’s pair of popular news satirists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, will return to their late-night television shows on Jan. 7, two months after production was suspended because of a writers’ strike.

Mr. Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” and Mr. Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report,” will have to improvise their monologues and interviews without the help of their writing staffs.

In a statement, Comedy Central said “we continue to hold out hope for a swift resolution to the current stalemate that will enable the shows to be complete again.”

Both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert are known for their political barbs and comedic campaign coverage, and their programs will resume one day before the first in a series of pivotal primary election nights. Comedy Central indicated that the timing was coincidental, as both shows were long ago scheduled to take a two-week end-of-year hiatus.

Both hosts are Writers Guild of America members, and a spokeswoman for the guild said it had no comment on their decisions to return.

In a statement, the two hosts said they would prefer to return to work with their 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,” they stated.

Without writers the two programs, which are shown at 11 and 11:30 p.m. and serve as tentpoles for Comedy Central, are likely to lean more heavily on unscripted interview segments. Booking guests may not be easy, however, as some entertainers and presidential candidates have refused to cross picket lines.


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