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1982: Late Night Meets David Letterman
February 1, 2021  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
 
On this day in 1982, NBC introduced Late Night with David Letterman. In 1980, two years before this late-night show was launched, NBC presented a daytime talk series called The David Letterman Show. Letterman pointed cameras out on the streets of New York City, did stupid stunts, played host to occasional pets who performed tricks, visited various stores and conventions in and around town, and joked with whichever celebrities and "civilians" could be persuaded to visit the set that day. In terms of ratings, the show was an immediate flop, and NBC canceled it after four months. Yet in those four months, Letterman already had forged a style, and found an audience, that would reap major dividends down the road.

On the penultimate daytime David Letterman Show, Letterman began by announcing, "There are two people in my life that I've always respected and admired, and these are people who make me laugh really hard. One of them is Johnny Carson, and the other one is here this morning: Steve Allen." In hindsight, it's a fascinating show to watch, because the mutual admiration society revealed Letterman's past influences as well as his future direction. During the interview, he asked Allen about such Tonight! and Steve Allen Show stunts as the time he dressed as a "Human Tea Bag," and pointed a TV camera outside to watch pedestrians pass by, and so on. "I've been a big fan of yours forever," Letterman told Allen, who in turn told Letterman he was impressed with the particular demographics of his midmorning studio audience. "They are all hip young people," Allen noted, "out of work." Letterman, with less than two shows to go before cancellation, grinned at Allen and replied, "I can sort of relate to that."

But NBC kept paying Letterman, and eventually dumped Tom Snyder and Tomorrow in favor of Late Night with David Letterman, where Carson's Tonight Show served as Letterman's lead-in, and Letterman's loyal audience of "hip young people" made him a campus and cult hit.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events


 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
mark isenberg
What Dave learned early on is not to hog the spotlight but find contributors like Larry Bud Melman and later,the world's oldest page at CBS or the guy at Hello Deli,etc. He had Terri Garr take a shower. He had the football toss at the meatball with Jay Thomas. He has never been brilliant as in Johnny brilliant but he even figured out how to get his Mom in Indianapolis to open the frig full of beer. Priceless.
Feb 1, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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