Saturday, 5 April 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1135: Goodbye Letterman.

You probably heard that David Letterman is retiring in 2015 after achieving his ambition to outlast Jay Leno.

A lot of people are wailing, gnashing their teeth, and rending their garments declaring how much they will miss Letterman, and to them I have a question:  

When was the last time you watched David Letterman's show with any regularity?

Come on, this is a place of honesty, and sarcasm, you can tell me.

I'll wait.

Pic from my own short-lived 70s late night show.

There, don't you feel better letting it all out like that?

I won't be missing Letterman as he is now, because I wasted all my late night talk show host attachment missing the Letterman I knew growing up.

As a kid I loved summer vacation because I got to stay up late, and if I showed some real gumption stay up all the way to 1:30 AM local time to watch David Letterman when he came on after The Tonight Show.

I loved Letterman's work in the 80s, he was inventive, he was unconventional, he wasn't above messing with the audience and the owners of the network. 

Then came the battle with Jay Leno to succeed Johnny Carson. It was bloody, it was brutal, and in the end Leno had The Tonight Show, and Letterman moved to CBS and the seemingly perpetual position as the critic's darling.

You see a lot of people in media resented Leno for how he got Carson's coveted desk, and figured they would make Leno pay for his perceived treachery, his obedience to his network masters, and his deliberated middle-of-the-road persona.

That meant Letterman was treated as if he could do no wrong, and that marked the beginning of the end, at least for me. His tics, absurdist pretensions, and mannerisms got more and more pronounced, but without the playful joy he exhibited during his days at NBC. It reached its nadir when he disastrously hosted the Oscars, and, for what I think was the first time in his late night career, he got bad reviews.

Anyway, after that I began to notice a change in Letterman and his show, but first a little digression.

The secret of Johnny Carson's success was that he always seemed interested in his guests. His successors were a different story. Jay Leno only seemed interested in depositing his pay check and getting another steam powered antique car.

After the Oscar disaster I felt that Letterman, see, I said I would get back to him, seemed only interested in 3 things:

1. Outlasting Jay Leno.

2. Proving that he was better than his guests.

3. Proving that he was better than his audience.

Eventually I lost interest in David Letterman, he had gone from being the comedic innovator with an all-American mid-western  aw-shucks attitude, to a smug isolated curmudgeon who played not to the audience, but to the media community that surrounded him.

So I, like millions of others, gradually tuned out, leaving Leno & Letterman to battle futilely for the captaincy of a sinking ship. Except unlike so many others, I'm willing to admit my heresy.

1 comment:

  1. Rainforest Giant5/4/14 2:37 pm

    Johnny Carson was the best hands down and the show was so much better that most people don't understand the difference.