44 Favorites: #14

David Letterman seated at desk on Late Show

Welcome to one among thousands of posts about David Letterman’s last day in
late night.

I had a typically punnish title ready to go before realizing that the survey of my
favorite things begun here for my 40th birthday hadn’t been updated in over a year.
A click on Dave’s name in the labels below will show that his brand of television, unsurprisingly, merits the designation.

Honestly, I’ve been watching David Letterman since before any of us knew who he
was. Once he was tapped by NBC to replace Tom Snyder at 12:30 a.m. following Johnny Carson’s Tonight, I remembered seeing him pop up as a weatherman on Mork & Mindy and catching part of his short-lived morning program in my grandparents’ kitchen. The David Letterman Show started (and ended) in 1980; Late Night began in 1982 and he left to launch The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS in 1993. Although 35 years of appearing on television more days than not has earned him a break — us too, he’d surely joke — I was happy to hear that he qualified his departure by adding “… for

At least two observations I want to share I’ve made here before: I find Jay Leno unfunny, his delivery poor, and his conversational skills lacking, which you’d think would be the kiss of death for a talk-show host. For those reasons as well as certain behind-the-scenes conduct by his staff before and since he took over for Johnny, I’m solidly Team Dave — even though I know Letterman is no saint. I also very much appreciate that Dave was able to transition into more of an establishment role after moving into the earlier hour, opposite Tonight, providing thoughtful interviews
while maintaining a healthy amount of irreverence towards institutions up to and including his own.

I’d love to see Letterman in a role similar to the one Snyder had on the original
post-Dave Late Late Show, talking only to people he wants to about subjects that interest him — scientists like Michio Kaku and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, political observers like Rachel Maddow, genuine off-screen friends or acquaintances like Michael Keaton, Amy Sedaris, and Tom Brokaw — perhaps just one night a week, Fridays, when the alternative is often repeats.

Now, I’m an easy mark for sentiment who can somehow get a little misty during
the finale of a show he’s never watched before. I had real affection for Johnny Carson, however, and remember his own moving farewell. I’m very interested in the machinations of showbiz too; Dave’s final Late Night and first episode of The Late Show bookended a moment of great upheaval in my life, but even absent that fact
and my being a fan of Letterman’s brand the fin-de-siècle of it all was fascinating.

The early years of Late Night with David Letterman, directed by Hal Gurnee and largely masterminded by Merrill Markoe, brought a lot of the anarchy of early
television most viewers had only heard about (if that) back to the airwaves. Search for
it on YouTube to see the debt the YouTube-worthy stuff on current shows owes to that program, and the devotion its adherents felt to have kept their VHS tapes. I believe fragments of Dave’s soul are still trapped in a few at my mom’s house. [Note: An official Letterman YouTube channel now exists with an enormous wealth of content.]

Letterman wasn’t for everybody. Which as with all counterculture and rebellion is probably a considerable part of why those whom he was for cherished him. He was
for the smart kids, the weird kids, no matter their age.

I hope that in time he’ll understand how much so many of us have loved him for what he did.

Screencap © 2015 Worldwide Pants.

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