The writers’ strike is over, and late-night television is making its long-anticipated return, but one show on Disney’s ABC network may return without its celebrity host.
The writers’ strike has officially come to an end, and as Tinseltown goes back to work, fans are eager to know when their favorite live shows will return–especially live shows on the air long after the evening news.
When writers went on strike on May 2, the immediate casualties of the strike were late-night television shows on networks like CBS, NBC, and ABC. Late-night talk shows, as well as NBC’s Saturday Night Live!, which has been a mainstay since October 1975, went dark, as writers have always been the very backbone of the broadcasts. After all, Kimmel isn’t Kimmel without his writers.
On Wednesday, however, the strike involving members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) officially came to an end at 12:01 a.m. as WGA leaders voted to approve a deal tentatively made on Sunday with the American Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Just hours after the end of the strike, late-night talk show hosts who make up the panel on Spotify’s Strike Force Five podcast announced their upcoming return.
According to an Instagram post from the panel, late-night talk shows will once again be an American tradition, beginning on October 2–exactly five months after the writers’ strike began in Hollywood.
Per the announcement, Seth Meyers will return to Late Night on NBC, Jimmy Fallon will return to The Tonight Show (also on NBC), Stephen Colbert will be back on The Late Show on CBS, and John Oliver will return to Last Week Tonight on HBO, though Oliver says he’ll be returning one day earlier than his colleagues to the HBO cable network.
And while Jimmy Kimmel was part of the announcement, it’s not clear whether he’ll actually return. Some fans are pacing the floor, waiting for–but hoping against–an announcement from Kimmel about his departure from late-night television. And if he does return on October 2, it’s even more unclear how long he plans to stay at the helm of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!
On August 30, the first episode of the Strike Force Five podcast aired. The podcast operated as a roundtable discussion of current events, and each of the five late-night talk show hosts who participated in the podcast connected via Zoom meetings. The podcast served as a meeting of the minds between Jimmy Kimmel and four of his late-night competitors.
Kimmel’s Live Show Failed Miserably Before It Conquered Late-Night Television
The first episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! aired in 2003 on Disney’s ABC network. Though Kimmel had been chosen over other talk show hosts for the coveted midnight spot at ABC, the show initially garnered extremely low ratings, and Kimmel and his team were met with an uphill battle as they attempted to attract celebrity guests to appear on the show.
Now, however, more than 20 years later, Jimmy Kimmel Live! is one of the most popular and successful late-night television shows of all time.
Over the years, Kimmel has been able to find his niche, eventually setting himself apart from long-standing competitors like David Letterman and Jay Leno, and he’s done it by being unafraid to delve into edgy content and even somewhat taboo topics.
But earlier this year, Jimmy Kimmel, the 55-year-old king of late-night TV, made the decision to step away from his empire on ABC for good. That’s despite his $15 million-a-year salary, which is equal to more than $88,000 for every appearance he makes on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Kimmel Made Up His Mind to Retire
Kimmel says that in the spring of this year, he finally made up his mind, deciding to finally step away from the late-night talk show business. The father of four, two with ex-wife Gina Kimmel and two with his current wife, writer Molly McNearney, said he was ready to begin retirement, but just before he was to make his formal announcement, the writers’ strike began.
“I was very intent on retiring right around the time where the strike started,” Kimmel said during the debut episode of the Strike Force Five podcast.
Kimmel’s confession was met with disbelief from his late-night colleagues: “Kimmel, come on; you’re the Tom Brady of late night,” NBC’s Seth Meyers responded. “You have feigned retirement.”
But Kimmel stuck to his guns, insisting he was not joking: “I was serious; I was very, very serious.”
Kimmel’s Retirement Hits a Few Roadblocks
Despite Kimmel’s firm decision, stepping away would prove difficult for a couple of reasons. Not only had Hollywood writers gone on strike, which threw the proverbial wrench in his plans, but his contract with Disney and ABC loomed overhead, as it doesn’t expire until 2025. A three-year extension of his previous contract was signed in late 2022, meaning the late-night king would either have to tough it out or use some fancy footwork–and clever talk–to back out of the contract.
At this time, Kimmel’s future as the host of the live late-night talk show that bares his name is up in the air, but some fans fear they’re only weeks or days from a retirement announcement from Kimmel. After all, contracts, by their very nature, can be negotiable, and if the only other roadblock on his path to retirement was the WGA strike, the sure and swift path toward is retirement is at hand.