Letterman's departure will reshape late-night

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

Letterman's departure will reshape late-night
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: Julia Roberts catches up with Dave on the Late Show with David Letterman Thursday Dec. 12, 2013 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama sits with David Letterman on the set of the "Late Show With David Letterman" at the Ed Sullivan Theater, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: David Letterman appears outside the 'Late Show with David Letterman' at Ed Sullivan Theater on April 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)
MUNCIE, IN - NOVEMBER 26: David Letterman attends 'A Conversation With David Letterman And Oprah Winfrey' at Ball State University on November 26, 2012 in Muncie, Indiana. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)
Talk show host David Letterman, right, interviews Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley on the "Late Night with David Letterman" show in New York, June 29, 1988. This is Letterman's second show since he returned to television despite the continuing Writer's Guild strike. (AP Photo/Mario Suriani)
FILE - This Jan. 15, 1993 file photo shows talk-show host David Letterman announces his new contract with CBS television for his new show "The Late Show with David Letterman," in New York. Letterman announced his retirement during a taping on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Although no specific date was announced he told the audience that he will leave his desk sometime in 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
**FILE**Late night talk show host David Letterman makes a surprise appearance at the Primetime Emmy Awards, Sept. 18, 2005, in Los Angeles. Letterman paused on the "Late Show" Monday night, March 27, 2006, to offer condolences to the family of race car driver Paul Dana, who died of injuries suffered in a crash during warmups at the IRL IndyCar Series race near Miami on Sunday. Dana was a driver on a race team partly sponsored by Letterman.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2009 file photo, traffic moves down Broadway, past the Ed Sullivan Theater where the Late Show with David Letterman is taped, in New York. Police responded to a 911 call of a burglary at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway around 7 a.m., Sunday, July 10, 2011. The officers noticed some property damage and have taken one man into custody, but no arrests have yet been made. It was unclear how extensive the damage was. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
In this photo provided by CBS, the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane hoists the Conn Smythe Trophy as “Late Show” host David Letterman places the Stanley Cup down on his desk, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on the set of the “Late Show with David Letterman" in New York. The Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, and Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. (AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO ARCHIVE NORTH AMERICA USE ONLY.
In this photo provided by CBS, U.S. Olympic men's high jump silver medalist Erik Kynard Jr., left, talks with host David Letterman on the set of the ìLate Show with David Letterman,î Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/CBS, Heather Wines) MANDATORY CREDIT ARCHIVE OUT NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY
In this photo provided by CBS, Masters golf tournament champion Bubba Watson, left, talks to host David Letterman on the set of "Late Show with David Letterman," Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO ARCHIVE NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY
Late night talk show host David Letterman speaks at the International Rescue Committee Freedom Award Dinner at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on Wednesday Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Reichbaum)
In this photo provided by CBS, former New York Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath, left, talks about his football career with host David Letterman on the set of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo) MANDATORY CREDIT NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY
FILE -- In a Jan. 13, 2009 file photo talk show host David Letterman leaves a taping of the "Late Show with David Letterman," in New York. Letterman Monday Dec. 7, 2009 dived right into material on Tiger Woods on the "Late Show," joking he wishes the golfer would stop asking him for advice. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
David Letterman, the host of "The Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, jokes that he no longer needs his name tag since the building carries his name after the dedication of the $21 million David Letterman Communication and Media Building on the campus in Muncie, Ind., Friday, Sept. 7, 2007. Letter also received a Sagamore of the Wabash from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Letterman is a Ball State University graduate and grew up in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
A "do not walk" sign flashes outside "The Late Show with David Letterman" studio at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on Wednesday April 26, 2006. CBS Corp. reported lower net first-quarter earnings Wednesday, reflecting the company's split with Viacom Inc. at the beginning of the year. (AP Photo/Shahrzad Elghanayan)
NEW YORK - APRIL 3: Actor Johnny Depp chats with Dave about his new movie 'Transcendence' on the Late Show with David Letterman Thursday April 3, 2014 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
Honest cab driver Qurbe Munir Tirmizi appears with David Letterman during the taping of the Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday, July 16, 1997, in New York. Tirmizi, a native of Pakistan, had only been driving a taxi for three weeks when a customer left her life savings of $32,859 in the back seat of his cab on Saturday July 13. Tirmizi promptly turned the money in to authorities and when his customer, Gwendoline Weeks, 71, originally from England, offered Tirmizi a reward he turned it down. (AP Photo/HO, Alan Singer)
Talk show host David Letterman gestures as he speaks to former President Jimmy Carter during the taping of the "Late show with David Letterman" Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1993 in New York. Carter, who dropped in on the show to tell a few stories, was welcomed onstage with a standing ovation. (AP Photo/Alan Singer)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 22, 1985: TV personality David Letterman poses at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 37th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 22, 1985 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by TVA/PictureGroup/Invision for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences/AP Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 7: David Letterman seen outside the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City on October 7, 2014. Credit: RW/MediaPunch/IPX
In this photo provided by CBS, Serena Williams talks with host David on the set of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in New York. Williams will compete in the U.S. Open which begins on Aug. 25. (AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo)
In this photo provided by CBS, host David Letterman, right, talks with the U.S. men’s ski slopestyle Olympic medalists on the set of “Late Show with David Letterman,” Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in New York. From left are Nick Goepper, Gus Kenworthy and Joss Christensen. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY
FILE - This June 29, 2010 file photo shows David Letterman riding a go kart powered by the reaction from mixing 648 Mentos candies into 108 two-liter bottles of Coke while taping a segment for "The Late Show with David Letterman" in New York. Letterman announced his retirement during a taping on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Although no specific date was announced he told the audience that he will leave his desk sometime in 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian Jay Leno, host David Letterman -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JUNE 25: Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, is welcomed to the Thursday CBS Late Show by host David Letterman. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 30: Jay Carney and Late Show host David Letterman discuss White House press briefings during Wednesday's 7/30/14 taping in New York. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 20: 'Late Show with David Letterman' host David Letterman plays a tennis match against Serena Williams at Ed Sullivan Theater on August 20, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
THE VIEW - 5/12/14 After 17 incredible seasons and 10 different female panelists, Barbara Walters says farewell to live daily television with her final co-host appearance this week on 'The View,' the daytime program she created for ABC. 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. Today's special guests include David Letterman, Michael J. Fox and guest co-host, Jane Fonda. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Stephen Colbert, future host of the LATE SHOW, talks to David Letterman when Colbert visits the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, Tuesday, April 22 (11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 5: Peyton Manning and Late Show host David Letterman try their passing skills at moving New York City cabs with open windows during Monday's taping 5/5/14 in New York. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Stephen Colbert, future host of the LATE SHOW, talks to David Letterman when Colbert visits the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, Tuesday, April 22 (11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Talk Show Host David Letterman is seen on April 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by DVT/Star Max/GC Images)
Kennedy Center Honoree comedian and late night talk show host David Letterman arrives for an event in the East Room of the White House December 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama and US First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event at the White House with the 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees before to celebrate their contribution to the arts before heading to the Kennedy Center for the honors program. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Actor Dustin Hoffman (L) chats with comedian and late night talk show host David Letterman during an event in the East Room of the White House on December 2, 2012 in Washington. US Presidenmt Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event at the White House with the 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees to celebrate their contribution to the arts before heading to the Kennedy Center for the honors program. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) Announcer Ed McMahon, guest host David Letterman in the 1970s -- (Photo by: Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Stupid pet tricks with Late Show Host David Letterman on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images) *** Local Caption)
NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Late night talk show host Conan O'Brien chats with Dave when he visits the Late Show with David Letterman, Thursday May 17, 2012 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 19: First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Late Show host David Letterman during Monday's 3/19/12 taping in New York. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: David Letterman jokes around with photographers at 'Late Show with David Letterman' at Ed Sullivan Theater on September 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: Guest host David Letterman on March 26, 1979 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
American comedian and television show host David Letterman, circa 1980. (Photo by Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images)
Host David Letterman and tennis player Maria Sharapova during a taping of 'Late Show with David Letterman' at the Ed Sullivan Theater on April 21, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/WireImage)
David Letterman walks hand-in-hand with Oprah Winfrey from the Ed Sullivan Theater to the premiere of Winfrey's new musical "The Color Purple" at the nearby Broadway Theater after Winfrey made her first ever appearance on "The Late Show" Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
David Letterman, right, the host of "The Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, and his mother Dorothy Mengering share a laugh during the dedication of the $21 million David Letterman Communication and Media Building on the campus in Muncie, Ind., Friday, Sept. 7, 2007. Letterman is a Ball State University graduate and grew up in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Talk show host David Letterman, left, gestures while talking with Johnny Carson during a taping of the "Tonight Show" at the NBC studio in Burbank, Calif., Aug 30, 1991. Letterman's presence on the "Tonight Show" was his first appearance since Carson announced his retirement next year. Letterman and Jay Leno, who is Carson's regular guest host and was named as his replacement, were in contention for the job. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
** FILE ** David Letterman walks from the Ed Sullivan Theater after taping "The Late Show with David Letterman" Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Rountree)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

NEW YORK (AP) - Jimmy Fallon's fast start replacing Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show the past two months had a secondary effect: David Letterman suddenly seemed old.

The Top 10 list, the ironic detachment, even the set at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Time doesn't stop for comedy legends, or superstars of any sort. Letterman, who announced Thursday that he will retire from late-night television sometime in 2015, had to feel it.

CBS now faces the challenge of moving on in a reordered late-night world at a time the two Jimmys - NBC's Fallon and ABC's Kimmel - have a significant head start.

Late-Night Reacts To Letterman's 'Late Show' Retirement

When Jay Leno left in February, Letterman lost his foil - the man whose victory in the competition to replace Johnny Carson two decades ago he never let go. Leno was someone who spoke his language, though, a generational compadre, and when he left, Letterman was alone.

Fallon and Kimmel have a different style, more good-natured and less mocking of the entire concept of a talk show.

It's hard to know what role the new competition played in Letterman's decision. His last contract extension, signed before Fallon took over, was for one year. In the past, he's done multi-year extensions.

The first time Leno left late-night, Letterman ascended to the throne. Not this time. Since Fallon began at "Tonight," his show has averaged 5.2 million viewers, while Letterman has averaged 2.7 million and Kimmel 2.65 million, the Nielsen company said. Last year Letterman averaged 2.9 million and Kimmel 2.5 million, so the direction was clear.

Much of late-night now is about making an impression in social media, or in highlight clips that people can watch on their devices and spread around the next day. Fallon and Kimmel have excelled in spreading their comedy beyond their time slots; Letterman has barely bothered.

Late-night television is a far different world than when Letterman and Leno began their competition. There are more entertainment shows to choose from, with personalities like O'Brien, Arsenio Hall, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Chelsea Handler working every night.

CBS will first have to decide whether or not to continue with an entertainment program in that time slot. It's not the money-maker it once was, but chances are the network will continue in that direction.

The first in-house candidate would be Craig Ferguson of "The Late Late Show," which currently airs at 12:35 a.m. on CBS and is produced by Letterman. But Ferguson's star has dimmed, his show quickly passed by in the ratings by Seth Meyers on NBC, and he is considered an unlikely choice.

A month ago, Kimmel was asked by TV Guide magazine whether he would be interested in succeeding Letterman, and he didn't shoot down the idea.

"I'd definitely consider it," Kimmel said. "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.'"

Could Leno come back? He's not the retiring type, but he would hardly be considered a play for the next generation.

Handler has let it be known that she's ready to end her show on the E! network. A broadcast network gig again would be a step up for O'Brien. Colbert and Stewart both are considered major talents and CBS would be much more high-profile than Comedy Central. John Oliver is about to start a new late-night show on HBO.

The question is whether those personalities would have too narrow an appeal for CBS, which is the broadest of the broadcast networks and would likely be looking for someone with wide appeal. Remember, many in TV considered O'Brien's "Tonight" show tenure a failure because his appeal was too limited.

Another possibility could be Drew Carey, a hit on CBS daytime with "The Price is Right" who recently traded jobs for a day with Ferguson.

Another possible decision for CBS is whether to move the New York-based "Late Show" to Los Angeles, now that "Tonight" has moved back to New York after decades on the West Coast. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wasted no time on Thursday in firing off an open letter to CBS boss Leslie Moonves, encouraging him to relocate "Late Show" to LA.

Wherever they're located, Letterman's replacement will face a real challenge with Fallon and Kimmel, who seem to have set up a bicoastal rivalry for years to come. Fallon is now king of the East Coast, and Kimmel currently rules out West.

"David Letterman announces that he will retire next year," comic Albert Brooks tweeted on Thursday. "CBS frantically looking for someone named Jimmy."

Besides the Top Ten lists, the monologue and occasional wild visit from Bill Murray, one facet of Letterman's show that will be most sorely missed is his ability to do sharp, even hard-hitting interviews with people in the news. His first show after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was memorable for his reaction. It's hard to think of anyone who has the gravitas or ability to fill the role that Letterman fills.

CBS Corp. and Moonves will have time to think of that over the next year, much of which will be spent celebrating Letterman's legacy.

Read Full Story

People are Reading