Thursday, May 21, 2015
After 33 Years in Late Night, Letterman Says Good Bye
David Letterman has completed 6,028 shows and he surpassed his hero, Johnny Carson. Johnny worked in late night for 30 years and Dave beat that by 3 years.
Many times, the final episode of an iconic show leaves us disappointed, wanting more. We get our hopes up and we feel let down. That was not the case with this show. It was thoroughly satisfying. It was the right mix of humor, sentimentality, celebrity guests, looking back on classic moments, a lot of gratitude and music.
Last night's finale began with former president Gerald Ford and his quote about Richard Nixon "Our long national nightmare is over". Other presidents chimed in with their renditions of that phrase, in reference to Letterman's show ending.
The star studded top 10 list was a highlight of the night. The category was "The top 10 things I always wanted to say to Dave". The celebrities included:
Julia Louis Dreyfus
Peyton Manning (Dave seemed star struck by the athlete)
The show had a video that showed a day in the life of Letterman, behind-the-scenes. It showed him arriving in the morning, meeting with writers and producers, chatting with the audience and taping the show. Carson did something similar on his last show.
Dave showed old clips of him with kids and his stint at working the drive through window at Taco Bell. The Taco Bell bit along with his bits with Rupert Jee going undercover and bothering people are some of the best moments from his career. The past several years, he has limited himself to comedy bits in the studio as a rule. Many feel that his show has become stale as time went by at CBS, and it has lacked the edginess that he once had.
Letterman acknowledged his crew and their role in the success of the show. Some may have expected an emotional show but overall it was not. Dave was clearly moved by having his wife and son there and regarding them, he said "Nothing else matters".
Some of the clips and photos were from his days at NBC. After leaving the peacock network in 1993, they did not let him take some of his bits to CBS, calling them the intellectual property of NBC. It is good that NBC gave the ok to use some footage from his old show in his final CBS show. He even had clips from his short-lived NBC morning show.
Dave said a simple "Thank you and good night". The Foo Fighters played one of Dave's favorite songs and the closing credits had pictures of the staff members.
James Corden began his Late Late Show with a tribute to Dave as he featured Sting singing in front of Letterman's New York theatre. He then had Reggie Watts and the band play their version of Letterman's theme song. For his monologue, Corden mentioned how Dave had influenced him and others. He felt honored to follow Dave's final show. It was a classy tribute.
Johnny Carson was legendary and Letterman borrowed a lot from him. He also had Steve Allen (the original Tonight Show host) as a significant influence. I have watched Letterman since high school. For many years it was my dream to work behind-the-scenes in late night. It's a unique television genre with a mix of stand up comedy, funny taped bits, celebrities and music. It's the end of an era.
Paul Shaffer said it best with his final words to Dave: "You changed our lives. We loved every minute of it".
*Photos are courtesy of Late Show Facebook page.