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"Late Show" Christmas - Baby, Please Come Home
December 13, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
My wish for the holidays this year is simple but sincere, and involves the no-end-in-sight writers' strike. I wish Late Show with David Letterman could get special dispensation to resume production of its CBS talk show, if only for one day.

Otherwise, before the month is out, viewers will be handed a big lump of coal, instead of another delightful dose of one of the holiday's most entertaining TV traditions.

Darlene Love

Every year on his last show before Christmas, Letterman brings on Darlene Love to have her sing the song she first recorded in the early 1960s on a Phil Spector holiday record: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Backed by Paul Shaffer and the band, an augmented orchestra and a stage full of backup singers, this annual treat has been served up since Letterman first shared the Love on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman in 1986.

How long a tradition is that? In TV terms, an eternity. Longer than Law & Order has been on the air. It predates not only the finales, but the premieres, of Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends and E.R.

Look at it this way: The Christmas after L.A. Law was unveiled, that's when Love first belted "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" to the delight of Letterman and his viewers.

Or, better yet, look at it this way: Love and Letterman already had established this number as a late-night TV tradition before the previous strike by the Writers Guild of America - and that was 20 years ago.

Something this venerable, and this beautiful, should not be tossed aside lightly. This isn't a streak that should be hobbled with an asterisk. In the spirit of the season, Late Show should be given the okay to mount one new show, to be telecast either Friday, Dec. 21, or Monday, on Christmas Eve.

A CBS spokesperson said yesterday that not even the rerun schedule for Late Show has been set past this week, so we don't know yet whether any earlier Love holiday appearance, much less which one, will be rerun before Christmas. For my money, CBS and Letterman could have started repeating them already - all of them - in a sequential countdown replaying the entire Late Show Christmas canon.

But that's not the best solution, or the point. The point is, commercial broadcast TV has almost no durable holiday traditions left. Why extinguish one of the few remaining shining stars when there's no real need to?

letterman-christmas-jay-tho.jpg

Love's always thrilling vocal is the most tenured spirit-of-the-holiday reason to cut Letterman a break, but isn't the only one. For 10 years, Jay Thomas has shown up to toss a football, with uncanny accuracy, at the giant meatball atop the Late Show tree. And for four years straight, he's told Letterman the same long, true "Lone Ranger" story.

If you have to ask why these are fun and funny, you haven't been watching, which means you don't know what you're missing. But those of us who have looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed these annual Letterman shows, we do know what we're about to be missing. And we shouldn't have to miss it.

To all the Scrooges at (or away from) the negotiating table, we, the viewers, aren't asking for much this Christmas. We're not asking for the moon, or the stars, or a quick end to the strike. To paraphrase the Beatles:

All we need is Love.

 

8 Comments

 

Mary Cate said:

I have been thinking this same exact thing since the last strike talks broke off. It just isn't Christmas without Letterman, Love, Thomas and the giant meatball.

Comment posted on December 13, 2007 8:47 AM


Eileen Morgan said:

Certain things are not to be missed during the holiday season starting with Dave Letterman entering into a trance-like state to guess which pies his mom Dorothy has baked for Thanksgiving. Darlene Love is as much a part of Letterman & Christmas as the Late Show Tree & Meatball. As much as I support the writers, it's a shame we are missing our late night friend and his holiday antics.

Comment posted on December 13, 2007 10:40 AM


John Christensen said:

I was just trying to explain this to a friend of mine, and then David captured it perfectly. If you want to see some of the old Darlene Love performances on the Late Show and Late Night, five of them, from 1995, 2000, 2004,2005, and 2006 are here:

http://www.ddy.com/dl29.html

"They'll believe me citizen!"

One of the great, great, talk show stories.

Comment posted on December 13, 2007 10:58 AM


Rob said:

And it just isn't Christmas without Paul's impersonation of Cher singing "O Holy Night"...

Comment posted on December 13, 2007 3:18 PM


Kimberly Woods said:

Thanks David for a great column. When the writers went on strike, I thought about the possibility of missing Letterman's annual Christmas show. I wasn't born when Darlene first recorded the song, but it is one of my favorites. I look forward to this episode every year (along with Charlie Brown), because it's simple, entertaining, and fun. I also look forward to seeing the backup singers and band. One year, Roberta Flack, Phoebe Snow, and Cissy Houston were the backup singers. Another year, the Marine Corp band/chorus accompanied Darlene. The Lone Ranger story never gets old. I think it is a great idea to rerun past episodes to give fans a dose of their annual holiday treat, and possibly attract new viewers to something that is wonderful and timeless.

Comment posted on December 13, 2007 9:08 PM


Susan K said:

I just had this conversation with my brother this morning. They need to let Dave do his show or CBS should show the 6 best ones next week through Christmas Eve. Christmas is not Christmas without Darlene Love and Jay Thomas.

Comment posted on December 14, 2007 12:20 PM


Scott said:

Yes! And Jay Thomas tossing a football at the top of the "Late Show" Christmas Tree ....

Comment posted on December 14, 2007 1:06 PM


Gregg Brettschneider said:

Always love it and actually have it on my DVR from the past 2 years. I hope they start showing at least the old ones. Thanks for the great article.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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