David Letterman is the only big late night host with professional writers. But it hasn't mattered in the ratings much: NBC's Jay Leno, writers or no writers, is still No.1 by a long shot.
Can Howard Stern help? Letterman has booked Stern, one of his biggest ratings draws for Thursday night's show. Stern and Letterman have a long relationship, and Stern appeared on Letterman the night he left CBS Radio for his mega-deal with Sirius Satellite Radio. Thursday will be his 18th appearance on the "The Late Show."
Now he returns to help breathe some life in Letterman's show, which returned to season-high numbers last week, thanks to plenty of viewer curiosity, but still hasn't made ratings inroads against Leno. In his first five days back, Leno trounced Letterman — like he always did before the writers strike began.
According to preliminary numbers, Letterman won Monday night — when he shaved his strike beard and had Tom Hanks as a guest. But even Hanks suggested Letterman wasn't doing enough with his writers: "I thought shaving your strike beard is what you do when you don't have writers."