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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 05:07 GMT
Screen return for talk show hosts
Mike Huckabee (l) and Jay Leno
Leno hosted Republican candidate Mike Huckabee
US talk show hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman have returned to TV screens two months after writers embarked upon industrial action.

Letterman's Late Show on the CBS network featured actor Robin Williams on Wednesday, after his production company reached a deal with strikers.

Leno's The Tonight Show on NBC returned without its team of writers.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) said Letterman's deal meant writers would be paid for work distributed online.

Leno's most prominent guest for his first show was Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Leno offered a monologue with jokes that he said had been crafted before.

"We are following the guild thing ... we can write for ourselves," he said.

A democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, taped a cameo to introduce Letterman.

"Dave has been off the air for eight long weeks because of the writers strike," she said. "Tonight, he's back. Oh, well, all good things come to an end."

Royalties row

Other talk show hosts, including Conan O'Brien, were also returning to the airwaves minus their writing teams.

It means the hosts will be unable to perform many of their trademark segments and monologues, and making them more reliant on booking guests.

But shows returning without their writing teams could face a boycott from celebrity guests reluctant to cross picket lines.

David Letterman
David Letterman grew a beard while he was off the air

The Hollywood writers strike, which began on 5 November amid a row with studios over the payment of royalties for work distributed online or released on DVD, meant the writer-reliant talk shows had to immediately repeat episodes.

Letterman's deal also includes The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS, which is made by his production company Worldwide Pants.

The rivalry between Leno and Letterman is intense - Leno's show has consistently led ratings since 1995.

Presenters such as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report have not been allowed to write scripts for their shows as they are members of the WGA.

Both of these shows are set to return to US screens on 7 January without their writers.

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