Volume 93, Issue 74

Thursday, February 10, 2000


Loot a well-executed farce

Harris has working-class appeal

CBS decision a stab to the heart

Guitarist well-versed in creating new images

CBS decision a stab to the heart

We're midway through what has to be the most stomach-turning week in television history – and no one has said anything about it.

In case you missed it, late night talk show king David Letterman recently had emergency quadruple bypass surgery, leaving the Late Show With David Letterman without a host.

The CBS network has been compensating for this unexpected development by airing some of Letterman's best Late Shows since he started with the network in 1992, a concession which most Letterman fans found completely adequate. After all, it was a chance to catch Dave at some of his better moments during the CBS run, which has been largely uneventful and far too milquetoast in comparison with his old Late Night 12:35 slot on NBC.

So, it was with great displeasure that I tuned in Monday night at the regular Late Show time, only to witness the travesty of the dour, unfunny Charles Grodin interviewing hackneyed guests Julia Roberts and Regis Philbin, as part of CBS' "Late Show Backstage" series.

A small concession was made in that the guests were reliving their favourite Letterman shows of years past and were basically acting as video jockeys for film clips.

With Paul Shaffer and the studio audience absent, what appeared on air looked like a poorly produced VH-1 Behind The Music biography, which lacked any sentimentality over Letterman's unfortunate absence.

It's clear that CBS' decision to fill the Letterman void is probably the most spineless move ever in the vast history of stupid industry suit decisions. Apparently, the network felt pressure from their sponsors to stop running best-of shows, probably because a new Leno program will beat an April 1996 Letterman show any day of the week in the Nielson ratings.

What's surprising is the relatively high morals these suits have shown in the face of this tragedy. I expected CBS to broadcast live from Letterman's hospital bed, replacing his wooden desk and 1950s' mounted microphone with an adjustable bed and rolling table, complete with a bedpan to magnify the audio.

Guests could pass the time before appearances in the waiting room, chatting up cigar-laden expectant fathers and reading cobweb-covered issues of Time and Reader's Digest from 1974. Rather than a mug filled with the beverage of the guests' choice, an intravenous machine could give stars plugging their latest triumph a well-needed burst of vital fluids.

The message clearly needs to be sent to CBS that they simply cannot have it both ways. Since temporarily replacing Letterman or airing best-of episodes are clearly not the routes they wish to take, they should either shoot for the lowest common denominator or pop into the time slot an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Who knows, going lowbrow just might work. I can hear the announcer now... "Live, from County Hospital in downtown New York, it's the Late Show With David Letterman! Tonight, Dave welcomes Doris the candystriper... Mike, the nurse that turns Dave over so he doesn't get bedsores... and Dr. Stephen Miller with an interesting new cardiogram!

"And now, the man with the newest valves in town... Day-vid Letterman!"

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Copyright The Gazette 2000