Thursday, May 21, 2015

Letterman ends an era

The lights are out, the desk is clear and the empty chair is facing a partially disassembled New York Skyline.  There are hints of what was scattered everywhere but now they're just broken reflections of a shattered mirror.

At least that's how I picture it.

I don't live anywhere near New York but looking at a live shot of the now defunct marquee of Late Night with David Letterman had more meaning than I thought it would.  It's just a dumb late night variety show right?  There's dozens of them now...

Except that its passing only confirms what we already knew.  Letterman's final sign off signals the end of an era of television that punctuated entertainment with intelligence. 

No, I didn't watch every episode and Letterman's not my hero but watching his show was a kind of rite of passage for me.  Imagine being a 16 year old kid left home alone for a weekend for the first time with complete control of the TV remote and not about to hit the sack after the local news.  It was my choice and my taste for the first time. 

Over the years I watched on and off.  Even if I wasn't a faithful viewer, it was reassuring to know that Dave was there holding up his end of the conversation in an entertainment world populated by mindless sitcoms and reality TV.  There must have been something to it because Dave always seemed to be able to get the Presidents and seldom seen Hollywood hermit types that nobody else could.

Yes, we still have Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel but they're of a different generation.  They all have their moments but those moments only come with the frequency of a sine wave instead of the steady state of Letterman.

Everything changes but the over the top antics and the short attention span theater of current Late Night entertainment is often just pale imitation in comparison.  Now it's about the 30 second video clip stuck on YouTube the next day with a nag card at the end saying " Watch (insert show here) on (insert network here) @ 11:30/10:30 Central."

Is it likely that any of them could earn a Peabody Award like Craig Ferguson's 2009 interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu?  Will they be able to console a wounded country like Letterman did a week after 9/11?

It's not likely, there's just no there, there.

Want proof?  Guess who was James Corden's guest tonight during his "Carpool Karaoke." 

Justin Bieber...

A display of a talent pool so shallow a cricket couldn't get wet.  This is the state of late night and if you like it you're welcome to it. 

I prefer to take my attention elsewhere.

Thanks for the memories Dave. 

Our only hope now is Stephen Colbert...