There have been a few long-awaited returns of "Late Show with David Letterman" over the years. There was his first show on CBS after his recovery from a heart attack. There was his first show after 9-11. Add Wednesday's program, which will be his first original show since the writers' strike began.
Letterman won't be alone at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday. NBC has been promoting the return of Jay Leno at 11:35 p.m. and Conan O'Brien an hour later.
However, Letterman is the only one who will have his writers aboard because his company, Worldwide Pants, produces "Late Show" and was able to reach an agreement with the writers union so the show could go on with his writers.
In other words, his show will be legit. So legit that he's been able to announce Robin Williams will be his first guest.
It is unclear if any actors will appear on Leno and O'Brien's shows, which are owned by NBC Universal, one of the companies the Writers' Guild is at odds with. The NBC shows will go on without its writers and may have difficult finding union-minded actors willing to go on.
Leno and O'Brien have released statements that explain they are returning to work to keep other non-writing staffers on the payroll. That's not the kind of statement that probably will wash with any viewers who are union members even if they understand Johnny Carson came back under similar circumstances 20 years ago and the pressures the hosts probably were under from their bosses to return.
Clearly, Letterman should get the labor vote on Wednesday. But it will be interesting to see what all the hosts say -- if they say anything at all -- about the writers' strike before they go back to seeking laughs.
Who will you watch Wednesday -- Letterman or Leno?
-- Alan Pergament