With Jay Leno finally gone from “The Tonight Show” again and Jimmy Fallon crushing the ratings with awesome Footloose tributes with Kevin Bacon and slam poetry about “Boy Meets World” from Samuel L. Jackson, it’s time for the other long-running late night giant to step down.
Variety reports David Letterman is stepping down as host of “The Late Show” on CBS when his contract runs out in 2015. On tonight’s episode of the show, you can hear his plan for retiring next year, but it’s already been taped, so we have some of his statement right here:
“The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance. And I phoned him just before the program, and I said ‘Leslie, it’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring,’”
Letterman is a late night legend, and he helped make these kind of shows on network television a staple. But as he comes up on his 67th birthday on April 12th, it’s probably time for him to spend time with his family after a 22-year run on the CBS late night talk show, which was preceded by an 11-year hosting run on NBC’s “Late Night” that didn’t lead to “The Tonight Show” since the network famously decided to go with Jay Leno instead.
As of now, it’s not clear when Letterman’s last show will be, as the comedian says, “We don’t have the timetable for this precisely down – I think it will be at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future, 2015 for the love of God, in fact, Paul and I will be wrapping things up.”
This truly is the end of an era since all of the late night hosts across the board, including Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O’Brien (Carson Daly too, I guess?), all rose to fame after Johnny Carson’s period in late night. Letterman was the last veteran standing, so late night really is in the hands of a new generation now.
But the question now is who will step up to take Letterman’s job? Craig Ferguson would be the logical network choice because he hosts “The Late Late Show,” but he doesn’t have the high profile or the appeal to take Letterman’s seat. It’s more than likely that someone will be hired from outside the network for this job. That person has to be a comedian, and they will likely need to have a big following. So who’s out there?
Maybe Jerry Seinfeld would want the job? He’s only seven years younger than Letterman, and he would fit with the demographic CBS pulls. But if the network wants to go younger, what about Joel McHale? He’s a funny guy, hosts “The Soup” on E! and skews young but not too young. Would Stephen Colbert ever leave behind his conservative character on Comedy Central for a shot at a network late night show? Probably not.
Is there a chance Jimmy Kimmel could be coaxed into taking the job, or is he comfortable enough at ABC? Kimmel told TV Guide Magazine last month:
I’d definitely consider it. I am loyal to ABC and grateful to them for giving me a shot. I was a guy from The Man Show when they put me on. I’m not looking to flee. But just getting a call from Dave would be big for me. So it’s definitely something I would listen to.
That’s fine. But maybe it’s time for CBS to shake up the late night boys club and get a female late night host in on the fun. Chelsea Handler is looking to leave E! Network so she might be a prime candidate for the job if CBS wanted to be progressive. There’s also Sarah Silverman, but she’s probably a little too edgy for the likes of CBS (though Handler might also have that problem too).
Someone like Tina Fey or Amy Poehler would be incredible, but it seems like they might enjoy their other TV and film projects more. This kind of job is one you stick with for a long time. But maybe their “Saturday Night Live” cohort Maya Rudolph would make a great host. After all, she seemed right at home on her fake “Oprah” style show that was part of the NBC comedy series “Up All Night.”
Actually, the best option for CBS, which would give them a chance to shake up their key demographics and also bring a trusted name into the fray of late night while still being progressive and forward-thinking, is Ellen DeGeneres, fresh off her stint hosting the Oscars this year and breaking Twitter records.
She’s a daytime sensation, she’s in tune with pop culture, she’s all over Twitter and makes things go viral in an instant. Aside from the fact that CBS has a lot of geriatric viewers, she’d be a perfect fit. Let’s face it: those old people who watch CBS aren’t going to be around much longer, so we might as well think of the future now.
Anyway, we’ve got some time to kill before a replacement really has to be groomed and hired, so we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy the last year that Letterman has left on “The Late Show.” As he finished his talk of retirement on tonight’s episode, the comedian said, “I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married.” They’re such a cute couple.
Who do you think should replace David Letterman on “The Late Show” on CBS?
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