david-letterman-retirement

I’ve been vaguely bummed out ever since Dave’s last show. My wife and I DVR-ed the last couple weeks of the “Late Show with David Letterman” and it was some of the best pure television (in a classic sense) I’ve seen in some time. Certainly each episode, especially the last, was touched with a bit of sadness as each of Dave’s favorite guests said goodbye. But it was funny, warm, and entertaining. I guess more than anything it was nostalgic in the best sense of that word (I’ve written here a few times about the dirty side of nostalgia).

Yet it’s that nostalgia I suppose that is most causing my vague sense of bummer. Dave has been on TV since I was born. He’s hosted “the Late Show” on CBS since I was a child/pre-teen. Pretty much every time I watched a late night talk show for the first 20-25 years of my life it was Letterman’s. Leno always had the top ratings but I never really met a Leno fan in my life, so that’s always confounded me (and pretty much every other fan of comedy). Of course, Leno was middle-of-the-road always making the safe jokes in a generally likable way so that’s probably the biggest explanation for his success. Letterman was a wiseass, but a loveable wiseass. My wife was an even bigger Letterman fan than I was, watching it on a pretty regular basis through her childhood and teen years. The other kids in her family and their friends were little comedy students and comedians in their own right so it’s obvious the appeal Dave had for them as he’s responsible for so much of the comedy that came after him. She even had VHS copies of his 10th and 20th anniversary specials which she  watched religiously.
But I really haven’t watched the “Late Show” other than a random moment here and there for the past 5-7 years. Watching it these past two weeks reminded me of why I loved it, but had it not been coming to an end I know I wouldn’t have tuned in. Letterman was something I always watched when I was near the TV at that time before or after a night out, when in a hotel on the road, or when up watching TV when I was home for the holidays. It’s been since my college years that I’ve caught the show much at all. Not that I replaced it with one of the Jimmy’s or Conan’s TBS show. I’m simply not up at that time since I hit 30 and work in the mornings. I’ve always caught “The Daily Show” when possible, particularly in the age of DVR as it’s a quicker next morning catch-up process (and alas my trusted news-anchor Jon Stewart is also retiring). But knowing that Dave is no longer on the air is just sad. Network TV (and TV in general) are just so different now—fractured, niche, on-demand, internet spliced for YouTube)- Dave’s show ending feels like the end of an era—and I feel older.

So thanks, Dave. You were the best to do this whole late night thing (and I’ve watched all the old Carson highlights). I hope Letterman has a long happy retirement with his family and that maybe his fans will get a chance to see him do a special or something in some capacity in the future.

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