DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

GARY EDGERTON

ROGER CATLIN

KIM AKASS

GERALD JORDAN

TOM BRINKMOELLER

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
Letterman's Last 'Late Show' A Perfect Sendoff
May 21, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 4 comments
 

After a third of a century in late-night TV, David Letterman presented his last show last night (Wednesday, May 20), on the final day of the May ratings sweeps. And he went out with a great one…

It’s a giddy time for series finales all of a sudden. Justified ended perfectly. Mad Men ended perfectly. And last night, Late Show with David Letterman did the same, presenting a little of everything that made David Letterman such a master of his TV domain.

Oh, Jay Leno’s Tonight Show eventually beat Letterman in the ratings, as did Jimmy Fallon’s. But while Leno went for middle-America acceptability and popularity, and Fallon for frat-boy viral-video playfulness, Letterman, from the start, went for anarchy. Guests on his shows were either co-conspirators or prey. Comedy segments didn’t so much embrace the late-night mold as deconstruct or destroy it.

On last night’s show, Letterman opened with a joke about not getting The Tonight Show – which, in my mind, he always deserved. And somewhere in conversation, he made a joke about Keeping Up with the Gabors, a reference so aggressively dated, it made him laugh knowingly as he told it.

Which was one of his secrets: David Letterman rarely seemed as concerned about pleasing his audience, in the studio or watching their TVs at home, as he did about entertaining himself. If you were in on the joke, on his jokes, it was like you were part of the rebellion. And that approach never got old, even though Dave (and I) did.

On the final show, there were classic taped bits repeated for the occasion, and a new Top 10 list, featuring a different celebrity reciting each item on the list. The Top 10 celebrities last night included Bill Murray, Barbara Walters, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Imagine what a Green Room that must have made…

And, at the end, Letterman effusively, candidly and extemporaneously thanked his two families: his workplace one, and his wife Regina and son Harry, seated in the audience. Harry seemed mortified, as usual, to be pointed out by his dad – but he loved it when his famous dad introduced and, as requested, name-checked Harry’s friend Tommy, who was sitting next to Harry.

Dave kept chuckling, and even slapped his desk with delight, at acknowledging Tommy, this little “everyday” kid, in the midst of the pomp-and-circumstance finale. It made Letterman laugh. And, as always, that was his best barometer for what to do, in a talk show career that goes all the way back to his short-lived NBC daytime show in 1980.

I reviewed that first show positively then. And I’m reviewing his last show positively now.

For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, listen today, or visit the Fresh Air website beginning Thursday afternoon.
 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
 Website (optional)
 
MDTEE
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
4 Comments
 
 
Stephen Melinger
David Letterman was funny but he never paid the respect to guests and the audience that they deserved. A good example is the appearances of Kreskin who almost gives up as Dave purposely prevents him from doing his act.
May 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Get thee to a You Tube and find the final six minutes,featuring the Foo Fighters and a super paced history,starting with the NBC Late Night era. If you're not in tears,you were never a fan. Everyone's there,from Chris Elliot to Harvey Pekar to Warren Zevon, except Stephanie Birkitt,which I understand for Regina & Harry's sake.Allen,Paar,Carson,Letterman make up the Mount Rushmore of Late Night,with Griffin,Douglas & Ferguson just below. Meanwhile,Lorne Michaels changes the way Late Night is imagined and not necessarily for the better.
May 22, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Elise
Goodbye, Dave. Happy retirement. You will be sorely missed. *sigh*
May 21, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
kevin
great finale. glad I watched it less the dvr. it went 15 or so minutes over the dvr's scheduling.

liked that he said goodbye/thankyou before introducing the foo fighters and the montage of clips. closing out with photos of staff and their names was nice, too.

even though I'm in the demographic for the jimmys, conan, and cordan, I've watched letterman since his nbc days. I understood the gabor joke, too. over the last 2-4 years, I've tried watching non-letterman late night talk shows and unable to stomach them. I hear and understand the punchline but I don't laugh. now that dave is gone, no need to dvr/watch late night talk shows.......................................
May 21, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: