Legendary Late Show Host David Letterman to Retire
David Letterman has surprised fans by announcing he will retire from presenting his Late Show next year.
After more than 30 years of his CBS talk show, David Letterman is one of the most recognisable hosts in the world and the longest serving late-night host in television history. A great on the level of people like Sir David Frost and Sir Michael Parkinson, his show has been known for years not by its title the Late Show, but simply by his name.
So, when Letterman announced last night that he will be bringing his epic run to an end when his contract expires in 2015, the public reaction was both surprised and sad.
“For 21 years, David Letterman has graced our network’s air in late night with wit, gravitas and brilliance unique in the history of our medium,” said Leslie Moonves, who owns CBS.
“During that time, Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candour and perspective around national events.
“He’s also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes – including me.”
It’s interesting that this comes in the same year that another chat show stalwart, Jay Leno, handed his programme over to the younger Jimmy Fallon. The Wall Street Journal reports that although the Late Show usually held the number two spot to Mr Leno’s programme, since Mr Fallon took over he has managed to extend his lead considerably.
The average age of a Letterman viewer is believed to be older than those who tune in to Mr Fallon, suggesting that we could be seeing a changing of the guard. Since it might be expected that younger viewers are more likely to head to YouTube to find out about well-known faces, this may come as a surprise. Nevertheless, it looks like late night TV, in the US at least, is getting younger.
But Mr Letterman’s retirement also raises interesting questions about the future of the TV chat show. In the UK, ratings are falling for many programmes and even among the popular ones, ratings are lower than they have been. It is no surprise that one of the most promising talk shows at the moment is that which Sir Michael Parkinson will be hosting as online-only content for Waitrose.
Whoever becomes the next host of the Late Show may have a task on their hands.