1980: David Letterman Takes On Daytime
On this day in 1980, NBC premiered The David Letterman Show. The 90-minute daytime show was a clear precursor to Letterman's future late night shows, with a monologue, comedy bits and guest interviews and performances.
Merrill Markoe, Letterman's then-girlfriend, was the show's head writer and occasionally appeared in skits. Other staff writers included Not Necessarily the News star Rich Hall, future Empty Nest producer Gary Jacobs and character actress Edie McClurg.
Even though the show won two 1981 daytime Emmys — with newcomer Letterman beating out Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore for "Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Variety Series" for one statuette — it failed to capture an audience. "It was a mismatch; it was not geared toward a daytime women's audience," said then-president Fred Silverman.
NBC pulled the plug on The David Letterman Show on Oct. 24, but kept Letterman under contract. Sixteen months later, on Feb. 1, 1982, the network introduced Late Night with David Letterman.