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Leno, O'Brien returning to air

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NBC: Leno, O'Brien returning to air

(CNN) -- The new year will see new shows from Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, says NBC.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" will return with all-new episodes on January 2, according to a statement from NBC. The shows had been in reruns for two months because of the Writers Guild of America strike.

"During the 1988 writers strike, Johnny Carson reluctantly returned to 'The Tonight Show' without his writers after two months," said NBC's Executive Vice President for Late Night & Primetime Series, Rick Ludwin, in the statement. "Both Jay and Conan have supported their writers during the first two months of this WGA strike and will continue to support them. However, there are hundreds of people who will be able to return to work as a result of Jay's and Conan's decision."

Both shows will return without their writers, The Associated Press reported, leading to conjecture over what form the programs will take. In recent years, late-night talk shows have been as much about scripted comedy routines as talk, unlike the raconteur-driven versions of the form hosted by people such as Jack Paar.

In a statement, O'Brien acknowledged that "[a]n unwritten version of 'Late Night,' though not desirable, is possible -- and no one has to be fired. So, it is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2nd," he said.

"I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers," he continued. "Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve."

Both Leno and O'Brien have been paying staffers' salaries since early December, following in the footsteps of David Letterman, who has paid the employees of his "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" since the strike began November 5. Letterman's production company owns both his and Ferguson's shows, which air on CBS.

Leno, O'Brien and Letterman are all guild members.

Letterman has been in negotiations to bring back his and Ferguson's shows with their writing staffs, according to an article in The New York Times Sunday. Jon Stewart, whose "Daily Show" on Comedy Central has also been in reruns since early November, has also trying to establish an interim agreement with the guild that would allow his show to return, according to the Times.

Residuals and new-media revenues are the primary issues driving the walkout.

Since the strike began, only NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly," among late-night talk shows, has returned to air. Daly, who's not a member of the Writers Guild, says NBC told him to come back or 75 members of his staff and crew were going to be laid off. His show resumed December 4.

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