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Letterman’s Retirement Brings Big Change to Late Night TV

By Christian Arnold
Staff Writer

It is a late night TV change of guard. The announcement that David Letterman will retire from the “Late Show” in 2015 – presumably sometime around when his contract is up in August of the same year – truly signifies the end of an era in late night TV. When rival host Jay Leno retired from “The Tonight Show” in February, the biggest question was when Letterman would follow suit. The answer is out there now.

“I phoned [Leslie Moonves] just before the program,” Letterman explained on the April 3 broadcast of the “Late Show.” “And I said, ‘Leslie it’s been great. You’ve been great, the network has been great, but I’m retiring.’”

The 66-year-old late night veteran will go down in history as the second greatest late night talk show host, only behind Jonny Carson. Letterman, in fact, was the handpicked successor for Carson before NBC gave “The Tonight Show” to Leno in 1992. It later came out that Carson would even send Letterman the occasional joke to use in his monologue.

It wasn’t just his connection to talk show royalty, but his wit and humor that set him apart in the world of late night TV. In 1996, he was on TV Guide’s ‘50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time’ list.

“It’s saddening [be]cause he’s a funny guy and you don’t want to see him go,” said Joe Voce, a senior Electronic Media major. “But he’s been there for 30-40 years. All good things must come to an end.”

Like other greats, Letterman had his critics; especially when it came to his, at times, unenthusiastic demeanor. Some would even say he was mean at times.

“I’m not trying to sound mean, but I always felt that Letterman was a little bit of a mean guy,” said Jake Scotto, a junior Broadcasting major. “He never seemed to be too into what he was doing.”

But maybe that was the charm of it. Even his retirement announcement was something that was casually announced as if he was describing what he had for lunch that day.

His replacement, Stephen Colbert, – who CBS announced would take over the show – won’t be anything like Letterman, and that’s not a bad thing. Late night TV appears to be transitioning to a younger demographic. NBC’s schedule has a pair of hosts who have brought some of their shtick from Saturday Night Live to late night. It will be interesting to see what Colbert will bring to the “Late Show,” considering the personality he perpetuates on his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.”

“It’s definitely getting younger,” Voce said about the new core of late night hosts. “A lot of the old guys are gone now.” Scotto added, “Letterman and Leno were more serious guys in certain situations. I feel like Fallon, Conan [O’Brian], Colbert, and [Jimmy] Kimmel [are] more laid back. They’re goofier and it seems they’ll do more fun things… Especially Colbert and Fallon.”

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