In case you haven’t heard, at this afternoon’s taping of “Late Night,” David Letterman announced he will be retiring sometime next year. After 21 years on CBS at 11:30, and however many years on NBC at 12:30, he’s finally wrapping it up.
In my view, Dave is the best of all the late night talk show guys, by miles. Jay Leno was a funny comedian, and I’ve seen him live a few times and really liked him, but his show was a snoozer. Boring and predictable. Conan was a little better, but I can see most of the jokes coming a minute in advance. And as for the two Jimmy’s, Fallon and Kimmel – they’re OK. They’re each unique, yet enough alike that I sometimes mix their last names up. But Dave has something no one else has – although he’s getting older and not quite as good as he once was. He makes fun of TV like no one else can. He doesn’t take it seriously. He invented the word “sardonic.” Well, maybe he didn’t invent it, but he does it better than anyone.
So, here’s the thing. CBS now has a chance to do something different, something creative, something new. I realize the words “different, creative and new” are a little foreign to TV, especially to the major networks (although they like to talk about being different, creative and new, without actually being different, creative and new). But now, with a year to get ready, CBS has a unique opportunity. Will they take it? Probably not. They’ll probably stick in another guy to do the same old tired talk show format.
Oh, they’ll hype is as new and exciting, but they’ll have a band, and a studio audience, and an opening monologue, and guests, and a desk. Yawn. We’ve seen it for decades. And the polls have already started – “Who should replace David Letterman,” and all the predictable names are there – Conan, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, etc. Yawn. And again I say, Yawn. Just stick another Jimmy in there. (You can take that last sentence both literally and figuratively).
So here’s my idea, CBS. It’s not exactly new, it’s been done before, but that’s good because you guys fear “new.” But if you insist on copying something, how about bringing back the Midnight Special from the 70’s? A cool concert show, five nights a week? The original Midnight Special only came on Friday nights, but now we could easily do something cool with music five nights a week. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who would enjoy seeing several live bands perform two or three songs in a row, on a cool stage that was designed for concerts. (Oh, and please don’t let Ryan Seacrest come anywhere near it).
So that’s it – Dave has been cool, no one else is like him. No one should try. And CBS, even though you probably won’t read this, and if you do read it, you probably won’t heed my advice – drop the talk show stuff, get ahead of the crowd instead of following it, and do a cool music show and call it The Midnight Special. Just watch the clip below, and imagine your tired network doing something this cool five nights a week…