The End of Dave: part 1
We are down to the count of when Letterman will leave television. May 20th is approaching like a freight train to the fans of Dave. I am one of those fans. I am old enough to have watched all of his CBS reign and a good portion of his NBC reign. In fact, I am old enough to remember the retirement of Johnny Carson. The last month of the Carson era was something that television does best. A long, slow tribute to a great career. The guest list during that final month of Carson was unbelievable. Huge stars would line up night after night to pay tribute to the King of Late Night. The culmination was the second to last Tonight Show when Robin Williams made us laugh and Bette Midler made us cry. Letterman is not big on sentiment. He is stoically slipping away from us. But the producers are doing what they can to match the final run on Carson. This was the first week that they stacked the guest list. Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Sedaris, Michael J. Fox, Alec Baldwin. All guests that have killed over the Letterman years. Some have risen to the occasion. Sarah Jessica's heart felt tribute was honest and real. Amy Sedaris' mix of zany and honest love is just what we have come to expect from her over 30 appearances. Other's have not really known what to do. Somehow Kevin James slipped in this week to promote his stupid Mall movie. Lets leave the promo appearances for one of the Jimmy's. The truth is that we really don't have the stable of truly talented people in show business like we did in 1992. They don't understand the idea of the talk show performance. That is quite different than the talk show appearance. Twenty years of Leno on top has taken its toll on what people think they are on a talk show to do. And what was left Fallon (who I like) has totally removed the idea of talking at all.
Where The Late Show is topping the final month of Carson is with the music performances. Dave loves music in a way that only true music fans can understand. This week you can tell he is picking the acts. They aren't showing up to sing their latest God awful single, they are singing songs Dave likes. Tracey Chapman's Stand By Me was so moving. Mostly because before she sang it, Dave let us know this was the song he sang to his son when he was a toddler. Dave doesn't share those stories, he is not Kathy Lee. But you could tell the song moved him. John Mayer did a FULL version of American Pie with the band. When is the last time someone got to sing a 5-6 minute song on Late Night television, when it wasn't a lip synch game?
The director kept cutting to the audience during the chorus (bye, bye Miss American...) and not once did anyone stand up and sing. They were hoping for a rock concert, but today's audiences are just as trained to mediocrity as today's producers are. Billy Chrystal performed one of his Marc Shaiman written comic songs that was funny and a fitting tribute. The music part of Dave has always been great. Paul Shaffer is a musical genius and the best band leader television has ever seen.
I believe that David Letterman's retirement marks the end of television. What we will be left with is a streaming industry not a television industry. Dave will be the last television star that there ever was. You do not have to be a broadcaster to fill a 6 second Vine, a 140 character tweet or a 2 minute You Tube Video. I knew that watching Dave leave would be tough for me. He is my TV friend. His intelligence and respect for the audience will never be replaced. You can't trend respect. Respect doesn't go viral. Having John Mayer sing "this is the day the music died" is appropriate. What Dave, Paul and the producers have done for music can never be over stated. What Dave has done for television will slip away and most likely forgotten and replaced by a clip of Jimmy Fallon playing Blind Folded Sudoko with Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. But what Dave has done for me will stay with me forever. I hope over the next four weeks more celebrities take the time to express that. Not just for themselves but for those of us who can't. Pay respect to the final King.
Scott Ryan is the co-host of The Red Room Podcast and the author of the comedy book: Scott Luck Stories
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