So Dave Letterman is ending his run in Late Night Television tomorrow night. We all knew this was coming. I wrote a fairly lengthy blog post about Dave when he announced his upcoming retirement last year. You can read that one here:
So I’ve just gone along this past year, pretending that everything is JUST FINE. They announced that Stephen Colbert will be taking over the time slot in September. This is fine. I like Stephen Colbert. At least I think I do. I enjoyed his Colbert Report show the few times I watched it. Because of a quirk with my PVR, it wouldn’t ever record it, so I had to trick the machine by recording “The Daily Show” and extending the recording time for an extra half hour. This worked for a while, but then the Daily Show stopped appearing before “The Colbert Report” on my TV and I never bothered finding it again and before too long Stephen Colbert ended his show and that was that. I say I “think” I like Stephen Colbert because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen his real personality. I think Stephen Colbert is a smart and funny guy, but he was playing a character on that show, and extended performance art piece that just happened to go on for years, in many ways more impressive that anything that Dave does on his show.
I watched the Christmas episode of Dave, saw Jay Thomas knock that meatball off one last time and heard Darlene Love ask us to please come home one last time, and that was fine. It didn’t seem real, but we’ve certainly had time to get used to the idea of no Dave. If anything, the shows this year have been looser, more spontaneous, and Dave seems to be having as much fun as he ever has. I love the fact that as recently as last night he was still introducing “new bits” to the show while at the same time remembering the past with some classic moments from old shows.
Then a couple of weeks ago the Late Show announced the final slate of guests and then all of a sudden there were only 20 or so shows left. I started to get a pit in my stomach because it all started to feel a little more real. No more Dave. Even Dave seems to be finding it hard to come to terms with this thing not happening any more. Last night, he opened the monologue by saying, “You might not realize this, but there’s just a couple more shows and then we’re done.” He said it like he wasn’t believing it himself.
When I heard Bill Murray would be his last guest, it all just seemed right and fine. Of course it would be Bill Murray. Bill Murray was Dave’s first ever guest on “the old show” (as Dave still calls it) in 1982 and was Dave’s first guest on CBS’s The Late Show in 1993. Dave is a creature of habit and routine as much as anyone. When CBS renewed his contract a few years ago, he joked that he was happy that he wouldn’t have to learn a new commute. But you know what? He probably wasn’t even joking about that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from work or school over the years after having a terrible day and sticking the TV on at 10:35, catch the last minute or so of the local American newscast, first from Detroit and then in later years from the Twin Cities, and hear that opening music and within minutes laughing out loud about something goofy that Dave said or did. There was such a comfort in the routine and habit of watching Dave.
I know we are prone to hyperbole around here, but I honestly can’t recall another TV show ending that has caused me so much inner upset. So much, in fact, that I haven’t been able to watch many of the final shows out of denial. Like the asshole relative who just can’t make time to visit that uncle dying in the hospital (I’ve done that too), I’ve been selfishly staying away.
But here we are with two shows to go. Tom Hanks was on last night, and Dave’s banter and spirit seemed so strong I couldn’t see any reason why Dave couldn’t keep doing his thing for another 10 years AT LEAST.
Tonight is Bill Murray. Tomorrow? Who knows? No scheduled guests. Just Dave and Paul? Clips? Surprises?
Thursday? Reruns of “The Mentalist”, apparently.
I suppose I really should have waited until it was all over to weigh in, but I like that fact that I can go home tonight and watch Dave like it were a regular night, and then steel myself for the final goodbye tomorrow.
And the funny thing is, I can’t really put my finger on what I like about Dave. The show is pretty thin sometimes, and the jokes and bits often fall flat, but like a comfy pair of shoes that feel right even if they are uncool, I just “get” his humour and love everything about him and his show.
Here’s a sample clip with a fairly recent interview with his old pal Teri Garr. Teri appeared numerous times on “the old show” and I always thought they had a good banter. This last interview though, is a bit heart-breaking isn’t it? (You’re singing the Pinot Noir song in your head, aren’t you?) Man, I’m going to miss that laugh.
The fact that I call him “Dave” says a lot. I have never referred to the Jimmies by their first names, and I rarely mention Jay Leno by name at all, if I can help it. One friend refers to Dave as “Uncle Dave” and I get that too. All you needed to say was “Did you see Dave last night?” and your friends knew who you were talking about.
And the musical guests! I learned about so many bands through this show. My love of Natalie Merchant, for example, came directly from her many appearances with the 10,000 Maniacs in the 1980s. Maybe that had more to do with Paul Schaffer? I think he is ultimately responsible for booking musical guests. Speaking of which, why don’t we enjoy a little Bono and Edge in honour of a successful launch to their latest tour last week in Vancouver? Remember that time when they spent a whole week on the Late Show back in 2009 when “No Line on the Horizon” came out? Fun!
What happens next? I can’t see myself watching Jimmy Fallon regularly. He’s likable but pretty forgettable. I don’t care for Seth Myers’ show at all and James Corden is fine but still finding his way. I guess there is Jimmy Kimmel. There’s an edge to him that I find attractive, but is he too mean-spirited for daily viewing? Last night Eddie Veddar sang “Better Man” for Dave, and it’s looking like ol’ Pearly Jams speaks sooth. There is a better man (or lady!) out there. You can’t replace Dave.
Maybe the best plan is to take the summer off of late night TV in honour of Dave, and check in on Stephen Colbert in the fall. Let the ground lay fallow, and know that there will never be another David Letterman to me.
Til then, “Goodnight Everybody!”