Thursday, April 03, 2014

David Letterman announces his retirement

Another television era is drawing to a close following David Letterman's announcement (video) that he'll be retiring from his long-running show, The Late Show, next year.

I date myself when I recall growing up with his show. He was always a younger, hipper, funnier alternative to the more staid, predictable Johnny Carson. Part of it was the fact that his pre-CBS show, Late Night, was on at 12:35 a.m. and as a result could go places where the more mainstream audience watching at 11:30 p.m. simply wouldn't tolerate. Carson's Tonight Show was pablum for my parents, while Letterman was pushing the bounds of what you could and could not do on network television.

In a pre-Internet existence, features like Viewer Mail and Stupid Pet Tricks - and Stupid Human Tricks - gave us a first taste of viewer participation in the big TV machine. It was a huge deal when a high school friend of ours actually got one of his letters read on-air.

Time does no one any favors in television, and Letterman has since evolved into the softened, comfortable late night presence that Carson once was. I'm oversimplifying, of course, but the sad truth for the Lettermans of the world is they won't be the voice of tomorrow forever. And to his credit, Mr. Letterman has decided to call it a day and move on.

Somewhat sadly, today's late night landscape just isn't as resonant as it once was. However the world of television has evolved over the course of his career, and regardless of the fact that the planet seemingly jolted a little - okay, a lot - less than when Carson et al left their gigs, there's no denying how fundamentally he changed the genre. And how much he'll be missed.

You don't have to work in TV to appreciate who he was and is.

2 comments:

Kerry said...

I wonder who will take his place. I always liked him, but this may be the right time to move on.

Michael Manning said...

A fine post, Carmi. I grew up in Ohio. David Letterman grew up in neighboring Indiana. His comedic style was inspired by "The Paul Dixon Show", a hilarious live morning show in Cincinnati. Letterman pointed to the television set and told his mother, "When I grow up, that's what I want to do". A good long career, and a fine compliment to Paul Dixon who left us far too soon, in the early 1970's.