Tuesday, April 24, 2018
TV and Media

David Letterman to retire in 2015 from 'Late Show'

And the No. 1 reason late-night television will never be the same:

David Letterman announced Thursday that he'll retire in 2015, ending a record run of hosting sleepy-time talk shows on two networks.

No more signature top-10 lists, stupid pet tricks or absurd stunts like wearing an Alka-Seltzer suit in a water tank. The man who made grouchiness funny and turned guests into bundles of nerves, wondering what he'd say next, is stepping down as host of the Late Show with David Letterman.

The gap-toothed pride of Indianapolis announced his decision Thursday afternoon while taping that night's program at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater. R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, a guest on the show, broke the news on his Twitter account.

Letterman, who turns 67 next week, put a customarily comedic spin on the news in a released statement, using bandleader sidekick Paul Shaffer as a punchline: "What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married."

CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves apparently wasn't informed of the decision until minutes before Thursday's taping.

In a statement later, Moonves noted: "(We) knew this day was getting closer, but that doesn't make the moment any less poignant for us."

Letterman visited St. Petersburg last weekend for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, according to his sister, Gretchen Letterman, who has worked for the Tampa Bay Times for 31 years and edits the newspaper's high school publication tb-two*. The comedian is co-owner of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that competed.

"I couldn't be happier for him and his family," she said. "He is the hardest-working person I know, and he deserves to be able to slow down a bit and go fishing more with his 10-year-old son. And, of course, spend more time with his sister."

Letterman's decision to retire isn't surprising after 22 years at CBS. A two-year extension signed in 2013 was widely expected to be his last. The extension also enabled him to recently surpass Johnny Carson as the longest-running host in late-night TV history, counting an 11-year stint on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman.

Delaying retirement until 2015 allows Letterman to surpass his rival Jay Leno in late-night longevity on a single show. Leno retired from hosting NBC's Tonight Show in February after 22 years. Their relationship forged as rising comedians was fractured in 1992 when Leno was named Johnny Carson's Tonight Show successor, over Carson's clear preference for Letterman.

The NBC power struggle leading to that choice inspired Bill Carter's 1994 nonfiction book The Late Shift, and later an HBO movie adaptation. Reviewer Kim Campbell of the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "Carter's eye-opening book leaves the impression that NBC will be remembered more for its loss of Letterman than for its role as creator of late-night television."

Speculation now begins on Letterman's successor, entering a late-night talk show landscape growing younger with each hire.

An obvious but older candidate is Craig Ferguson, 51, host of The Late Late Show following Letterman for more than nine years. That program is produced by Worldwide Pants, a company owned by Letterman, so he could continue to profit from the 11:35 p.m. time slot.

While setting a standard for late-night comedy, not everything about Letterman's tenure has been funny.

Sexually charged jokes about Sarah Palin's oldest daughter Bristol — especially one mistakenly aimed at her younger sister — earned outrage from supporters of the former vice presidential candidate and the National Organization for Women.

For a decade, Letterman was stalked by a schizophrenic woman who eventually committed suicide. In 2009, Letterman confessed to sexual affairs with several female employees, revealed after a CBS producer attempted to extort money from him.

The late-night youth movement has taken a toll on Letterman's ratings, which trailed Leno's during much of his tenure. Since former Saturday Night Live star Jimmy Fallon, 39, took over for Leno, The Tonight Show averaged 4.3 million viewers nightly compared to 2.85 million tuning in to Late Show.

Despite career bumps, though, Letterman's late-night legacy is best summed by Moonves:

"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.

"During that time, Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candor and perspective around national events. He's also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes — including me.

"There is only one David Letterman."

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

Comments
Twin sisters from Tampa helping shape Fox’s ‘Empire’ say they’d like to tell Tampa stories

Twin sisters from Tampa helping shape Fox’s ‘Empire’ say they’d like to tell Tampa stories

JaNeika and JaSheika James’ television obsession was fueled by scarcity and convenience. As self-described "military brats" living in Germany, the girls treasured the VHS tapes their grandmother shipped overseas filled with English-language Saturday ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseballTwins at Yankees6:30 p.m.MLB; 1040-AMRays at Orioles7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Dodgers10 p.m.FSFCollege baseballCoastal Carolina at North Carolina6 p.m.ESPNUMississippi at Mississippi State7 p.m.SECCreighton at Nebraska7:30 p.m.Big ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Dwayne Johnson turns down promposal, but rents a movie theater for her instead

Dwayne Johnson turns down promposal, but rents a movie theater for her instead

STILLWATER, Minn. — An eastern Minnesota teen who asked her celebrity crush Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to prom got a huge surprise when he actually responded. The Pioneer Press reports that Stillwater Area High School Senior Katie Ke...
Published: 04/23/18
Prince Arthur? Odds on the name of the newest royal baby

Prince Arthur? Odds on the name of the newest royal baby

Jackson, Liam and Noah may have been the most popular boys names in 2017, but don’t expect either of those monikers to be applied to the latest addition to the royal family.The Dutchess of Cambridge (that would be Kate Middleton) and Prince Wil...
Published: 04/23/18
Review: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ returns as a brutal message on extremism, complacency and trauma

Review: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ returns as a brutal message on extremism, complacency and trauma

About eight minutes into the second season of The Handmaid's Tale, you hear Kate Bush's This Woman's Work play amidst close shots of muzzled women. It's so heartbreaking that you may question your stamina to get through another dozen episodes.The son...
Published: 04/23/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNBaseballAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNTwins at Yankees7 p.m.ESPNMarlins at Dodgers10 p.m.FSFCollege softballTennessee at Alabama7 p.m.SECLouisville at Florida State7 p.m.ESPNUNBA playoffs...
Published: 04/22/18

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosNHRA: SpringNationals2 p.m.FS1IndyCar: Grand Prix of Alabama3 p.m.NBCSNBaseballTwins at Rays1 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Brewers2 p.m.FSFIndians at Orioles2 p.m.MLBCubs at Rockies (in progress)4 p.m.MLBNationals at Dodgers8 p.m.ESPNColle...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back online: WestworldIt's crazy to think that the first season of Westworld premiered more than a year ago. But the hype surrounding this modern sci-fi series hasn't let up since. In the first season we explored the high-tech theme park of Westworld...
Published: 04/20/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18