Nielsen: 13.76 Million Viewers for Letterman’s Last Show

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Comic celebrities turned out for David Letterman’s late-night farewell — and so did his biggest audience in more than 21 years.

The Nielsen company said Thursday that 13.76 million viewers saw Letterman end his 33-year career as a late-night TV host with a final show Wednesday night. The last time Letterman had so many viewers was in February 1994, when his show aired after CBS’ telecast of the Winter Olympics.

More people watched Letterman than anything else in prime time on Wednesday night. Letterman’s final show started at 11:35 p.m. and lasted more than an hour as CBS let it run long.

Jay Leno’s farewell last February was seen by 14.6 million viewers.

Both exits take a back seat to the man who came before them. Johnny Carson’s signoff in 1992 drew more than 41.4 million viewers — more than Letterman and Leno combined. But in fairness, that was a time when most Americans were still getting TV off the air — not through the myriad options viewers have today. (AP)

David Letterman: An Appreciation

I have been dreading this day for months. The last ‘Late Show with David Letterman.’  With tonight’s departure, a piece of my youth will also forever be gone.

I started watching him in 1987. And not by choice. I didn’t have MTV. So I watched Friday Night Videos after Johnny Carson. And then NBC decided to move ‘Late Night’ to Fridays. So that moved my show up on hour to 1:30-3am.

While I hated in the beginning, I began to fall in love. Hard core too. He spoke to me, and a younger generation of viewers who didn’t – or couldn’t – identify with my parents’ perennial favorite, Carson.

I watched in utter delight him making lasagna with his mother, Dorothy and Martin Scorsese and his mother. Granted he was there to promote Goodfellas, but food messy food became the real headline.

I watched ‘dancing waters’ in front in his desk, him complain non-stop after his driver’s license was suspended due to speeding in late ’89, and had to be chauffeured every day to Rockefeller Center. He haaaaaaaaaaaated it.

One night an animal expert brought on a bird. But, somehow that bird got loose, and stayed in the rafters the rest of the show, and periodically would squawk in delight. Studio cameras would try to keep up with its squirrely movements.

I was in Switzerland when he taped his last show at NBC. Thinking ahead, I set my VCR to record it. Instead, my parents stayed up that night to watch it, to make sure it recorded for me. When I called, they told me he had pulled a giant clock off the wall. To this day, I have never seen that show; the tape sits somewhere in storage.

I was lucky enough to see live taping during my spring break in1997.

My mother and I were a little tired to see a show a second day in the row, after watching ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien,’ but we trudged ahead; we flew more than 3,000 miles, there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity.

It was early April, which meant his birthday was fast approaching. And what better gift to give a 50-year-old man that a genuine Mustang Ranch gift certificate? Too bad we spent our entire Q&A on a dumb question from a guy from New Jersey. So, I brought it back home, where it’s still in my current possession. Good twist of fate since the original brothel is no more.

I remember seeing Jean Claude Van Damme – for a second day in a row (!) – and Brad Garrett.

Over time I got older and started working. I replayed his Top Ten Lists during the morning show I produced, but slowly, I sometimes lost interest. He seemed to be out of touch with today’s comedy environment. And it finally hit me why – it’s because our current comedy shows are direct descendants of him, so in my eyes, there’s nothing new and innovative, just all mirror images of each other.

And that’s how David Letterman will be remembered – as an innovator and original thinker. He created the anti-talk show by wearing Velcro suits and dunking himself in massive bowls of milk, dropping watermelons from rooftops, and annoying ordinary people on outside streets.

Depending on what it was, my mother loved watching Stupid Pet Tricks. I loved remotes, and the short segment between the first guest and second, it ran around 1:00 – 1:08 am – isn’t that funny I remember that?

I don’t think many young people will understand his true importance, maybe when time passes…but for me, he will always hold a cheery place in my heart.

#thanksdave