Flipping the Script

Late-night talk has returned just in time for the campaign. But some of the rules have changed

Paul Drinkwater / NBC Universal / Getty

In his first show since the beginning of the strike, Leno gave Huckabee a pre-Iowa platform

In this new year, there has been an earthquake in the public arena. Front runners recast themselves as scrappy underdogs. The public proved willing to back leaders who departed from traditional scripts. And both the competitors and the media scrambled to make sense of the new rules of this upended game.

Also, there were some elections.

O.K., the analogy between politics and the late-night talk shows breaks down eventually. When David Letterman returned--his production company having made a deal with striking writers--and late-night leader Jay Leno came back writerless, the stakes were not so high. And the hosts, unlike the candidates, share an...

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