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Kimmel Joins Leno, O'Brien Back on Air

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LYNN ELBER | December 18, 2007 09:36 PM EST | AP

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Kimmel will join NBC's late-night hosts in returning with new shows Jan. 2 in the midst of the Hollywood writers strike, ABC said Tuesday. Kimmel, along with Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and other hosts, had honored the strike that began Nov. 5. He said it was a difficult decision to resume work without writers, but he wants to save the jobs of other staffers on the show.

"Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than a hundred people whose financial well-being depends on our show. It is time to go back to work," Kimmel said in a statement released by ABC.

Meanwhile, the writers guild is talking about making a deal with David Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, so his CBS show can return with its writers.

Rob Burnett, the company's chief executive and the show's executive producer, expressed optimism Tuesday.

"We are willing to agree to the writers' demands that are within our control, so we have no reason to believe that an interim agreement can't be achieved with the WGA," Burnett said in a statement.

The focus is on returning Jan. 2 with a writing staff, he said.

Kimmel voiced support for colleagues and friends in the Writers Guild of America and added that he hoped the contract dispute with producers "ends both fairly and soon."

On Monday, NBC announced that Leno's "Tonight Show" and O'Brien's "Late Night" would be back on the air Jan. 2.

Last month, NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly" became the first late-night talk show to defy the writers strike and resume production.

With talks breaking down and no further negotiations scheduled, Leno said he felt it was his responsibility to get his 100 non-writing staff members back to work.

In the 1988 writers strike, "Tonight" host Johnny Carson returned to the air after two months off. Carson worked without writers for three weeks, then reached an agreement with the union to bring his staff back.