David Letterman Headed Back to Talk TV With Netflix Series

David Letterman, who said goodbye to his long-running CBS talk show two years ago, will say hello to TV again with a new show for Netflix.

Netflix announced Tuesday that the six-episode series has Letterman combining two primary interests: in-depth conversations, and in-the-field segments sparked by his curiosity and humor. In each hour-long episode, Letterman will conduct a long-form conversation with a single guest, and explore topics of his own outside the studio.

The as-yet-untitled series is set to premiere in 2018.

In 33 years on late-night television, Letterman hosted 6,028 episodes of NBC’s “Late Night” and CBS’ “Late Show,” and is the longest-running late-night broadcaster in American history. He stepped down from “Late Show” in May 2015. (AP)

CBS Sets Letterman’s Last Show for May 20

David Letterman will host his final “Late Show” next May 20.

CBS and Letterman’s production company announced the exit date on Wednesday. Letterman said earlier this year he was retiring after more than 30 years as a late-night host, and the network later named Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central as his replacement.

CBS didn’t announce Colbert’s starting date on Wednesday.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves said it’s going to be tough to say goodbye, but that “we will all cherish the shows leading up to Dave’s final broadcast in May.” (AP)

CBS Says Letterman Signed Into 2015

CBS says David Letterman has signed a contract extension to remain host of the “Late Show” into 2015.

The deal keeps Letterman on the air well beyond the exit of rival Jay Leno, who is being replaced next winter at NBC’s “Tonight” show by Jimmy Fallon.

Letterman joked on Friday that he had a lengthy talk with CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and that “we both agreed that I needed a little more time to fully run the show into the ground.”

Letterman already has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history, 31 years and counting since he began at NBC in 1982. (AP)

Jimmy Fallon Takes Over for Conan Tonight

late-night-with-jimmy1

NEW YORK – Almost a year after Jimmy Fallon was named new host of NBC‘s “Late Night,” and 10 days after predecessor Conan O’Brien departed, Fallon made his debut Monday.

Fallon’s opening-night guests included Robert De Niro and Justin Timberlake, with Van Morrison as his musical guest. (It airs at 12:35 a.m. EST.)

An hour earlier on CBS, “Late Show with David Letterman” was kicking off some musical excitement of its own: the first of a full week of performances by the superstar band U2. In an unprecedented weeklong booking by “Late Show” (airing at 11:35 p.m. EST), U2 is promoting its new album, “No Line on the Horizon.”

“It will be interesting to see if they can make it past Wednesday night,” Letterman said on Monday’s show.

U2’s four members also pitched in for some comedy. Letterman said viewers shouldn’t get the impression that these are pretty-boy rock ‘n’ rollers — they’re willing to lend a hand if someone needs some help. Then the camera switched to a shot of U2 shoveling snow outside the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Larry Mullen shoveled while smoking a cigarette, which Letterman noted.

“I think there’s very little danger of them overdoing it,” he cracked.

Later in the show, U2 performed its new song “Breathe.”

In his debut monologue, Fallon joked about opening-night jitters with a reference to the weather.

New York City was hit with a huge snow storm,” he noted, “and I woke up this morning and said, `Please, let it be a snow day!'”

Fallon, a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” with several films to his credit, has tapped a longtime “SNL” hand, Michael Shoemaker, to be his producer. A co-producer is Gavin Purcell, who ran “Attack of the Show,” the daily Net-centric news hour on cable’s G4 channel.

Lorne Michaels (who used to be Fallon’s boss on “SNL”) continues as “Late Nightexecutive producer.

Other than excerpts from its monologue, the New York-based show, taped Monday afternoon, was not made available to critics before airtime.

But details and glimpses of the Fallon era “Late Night” have been shared with viewers on the show’s Web site for weeks.

“I know I’m gonna get reviewed off the first show, as opposed to the first couple of months,” Fallon predicted in a recent interview. “`He’s no Conan,’ or `He’s no Letterman’ — I just want that to be said, and put out there. Then viewers can relax and watch and enjoy.”

Fallon’s on-air arrival sets in motion a carefully arranged shift by NBC. O’Brien, who took over “Late Night” from its original host, Letterman, in 1993, is now devoting full time to readying his version of the Los Angeles-based “Tonight” show, where he will land in June.

“Tonight” veteran Jay Leno will return to the air come fall with a weeknight prime-time talk-variety show airing at 10 p.m.

Worst Headline Ever (At Least for Me)

From Newsweek magazine:

The Oscars Must Die
Whether or not the Hollywood writers’ strike nixes this year’s Academy Awards telecast, it may be time to kill the show.
By Marc Peyser
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 5:26 PM ET Jan 31, 2008
Nothing quite motivates Hollywood like the prospect of a global calamity that only a heavy dose of stardust can avert. Disease. World hunger. Supplying Larry King with a steady stream of interviews so he can stay off the unemployment line. This year’s impending tragedy is, of course, far worse than those. The Oscar telecast might die. How will the world ever escape the darkness that will befall it if we are deprived of our annual evening of glitter and blather? The writers’ strike is obviously serious business, but the public has sacrificed quite enough by forgoing the return of “24.” Jack Bauer, please rescue the Oscars!On the other hand, maybe Jack should keep lying low. Who needs the Oscars, anyway, other than the chosen few nominees and the hangers-on who love them? The fact is, the Oscar telecast (scheduled for Feb. 24, assuming some sort of miracle) is the worst three hours and 27 minutes on television, and it has held that distinction for years and years and years. Go ahead, try to think of something, anything, memorable from a telecast in the last, say, five years. The witty host’s monologue? The moving acceptance speeches? The outfits? Sure, you can remember that such staples existed, along with a cute joke or moving moment or two. But considering the length of the show, those tidbits don’t convert to a very high on-base percentage. And considering the anticipation and hype that precede the show every year, this is one pretty awful excuse for A-list entertainment.

Don’t agree? Think about the most memorable moments from the show in recent years. Most memorable acceptance speech: Halle Berry’s endless tearfest. Dress: Bjork, dressed as a swan. Host shtick: David Letterman’s “Uma-Oprah” monologue. Presenter’s moment: Elizabeth Taylor’s addled “GLAD-i-a-tor!” (Or was that at the Golden Globes? All these awards shows start to blend together after a while.) Production number (a tie): Rob Lowe meets Snow White, and any of the best-song montages choreographed by Debbie Allen. That’s some hit parade, isn’t it?

I exaggerate, of course. (A little.) The Oscars have served up some amusing crumbs, though I was so hard pressed to remember any of them, I went back and read reviews of the last three years’ telecasts, and the most promising stuff I found was the orchestra cutting off Al Gore in midsentence (2007), Jon Stewart ending up in bed with George Clooney in the year of “Brokeback Mountain” (2006), and, well, I thought Chris Rock was hilarious, but apparently Hollywood was not amused when he mocked the acting prowess of Tobey Maguire and Colin Farrell, so maybe you can’t count that.

That’s a big part of the problem. The Oscars has become the multinational corporation of television shows, so it’s afraid to offend anyone. This is live television, but it feels as if it was freeze-dried back in 1956. I so wish that a streaker would run across the stage, or some senior citizen attempt a one-handed push-up, or Janet Jackson were a better actress so she could get into the building and give us a wardrobe malfunction. There is no spontaneity, no life. It’s much easier to watch the highlights on E! and save three hours of my life. And don’t try to tell me that Billy Crystal would solve the problem. Going back to ghosts of Oscars past is the surest way to make it more irrelevant than it already is.

So what to do? Shorten the telecast, for one. The SAG Awards clipped along nicely at two hours, and it could have even been shorter. I know there are contractual reasons that so many of those second-tier and technical awards have to be presented on-air, but seeing how we’re in a new contractual season, maybe something can be done about that. When you’ve won an Oscar for best animated short, the statue should be enough recognition, thank you.

The telecast’s producers should certainly find a way to make the show more fun. I’d love to see someone—Jack Nicholson is my first choice—slimed with green gunk, in an homage to the infinitely more enjoyable Kid’s Choice Awards. One of my favorite parts of the Emmys is the nominations for best talk or variety show. Not surprisingly, they all make hilarious tapes to accompany the long list of nominated writers. My favorite this year was from Bill Maher’s folks, who placed themselves in a series of bathroom stalls, with various combinations of tapping (and moving and kicking) toes, à la disgraced Sen. Larry Craig. At the end of the list, the last stall door flew open, Maher stepped out, gave himself a squirt of breath spray, and went on his way. The Oscar folks would never go for something as risqué—and brilliant—as that. So who cares if the entire thing vanishes this year. Frankly, I’d just as soon see the whole thing flushed away for good.

Two More Are Back on Board!

TV Watch

With Focus on the Strike, Stewart Returns

Comedy Central
Published: January 8, 2008
The glimmer of emotion that Hillary Rodham Clinton displayed in New Hampshire was startling because it was so out-of-character — almost as disconcerting as Jon Stewart returning to “The Daily Show” on Monday and not making fun of it.Instead of the latest primary mishaps, Mr. Stewart devoted most of his mock news show to the writers’ strike and to his own decision to return to work without writers (or censors: he let off several obscenities that were not bleeped in time)

Mr. Stewart and his colleague Stephen Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report,” were following the lead of Jay Leno at NBC and other late night network hosts who went back to on the air last week without reaching a side deal with the writers guild. (David Letterman’s production company did work out a separate agreement for his program and “The Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson. On Monday night, Mr. Letterman interviewed Tom Hanks and Mike Huckabee, and shaved off his strike beard on stage.)

Obviously, Mr. Stewart was torn. He skewered both his parent company — Viacom, which opposes the Writers Guild of America in the strike dispute — and the guild that has kept him off camera during one of the most volatile and exciting presidential elections since he began on “Comedy Central.”

Last night, Mr. Stewart’s vexation was keener than his wit.

He likened the “Speechless” ads, a series of bleak, self-righteous black and white video spots on the guild’s Web site, to an anti-AIDS public service message. He noted that late-night talk shows stayed dark for just one week after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, whereas the current strike — a dispute over Internet revenues — had lasted nine weeks. And he joked, somewhat sourly, that by that calculation, “the writers’ strike is nine times worse than 9/11.”

His sole interview for the night was with Ron Seeger, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University, who failed to clarify why the strike was going on so long.

Mr. Stewart had funny moments. But overall, the show was a jarring display of solipsism from a performer famous for expertly tweaking the vanity and self-importance of politicians and conventional news organizations. Mr. Stewart is just as merciless when it comes to the self-serving compromises and moral ambiguities of other institutions. And his position was certainly ambiguous: he was resentful of the producers and angry at the writers’ representatives, who so far have failed either to reach an agreement or to grant Comedy Central a special exemption for “The Daily Show.”

Mr. Colbert also returned, but with less angst. He opened his show by sitting at his desk feeding script pages into a paper shredder, as if destroying incriminating evidence. When Mr. Stewart asked him if he was violating the rules, Mr. Colbert teasingly accused Mr. Stewart of having relied on prepared material. “I’m very alarmed by how prepared you seem,” Mr. Colbert said, adding that he would denounce him to “The Writers’ Guild People’s Council for the Preservation of the Written Word.”

His task was easier, of course. “The Colbert Report” is a parody of Fox News-style cable opinion shows, and he plays the part of an obtuse, pompous arch-conservative; much of his show consisted of clips from past episodes in which Mr. Colbert ranted against the tyranny of unions. (“You know what prevents childhood obesity?” he said. “A 19-hour shift at the mill.”) But Mr. Colbert kept his sense of humor trained on the campaign trail, joking about Sen. Barak Obama’s rise and interviewing Mike Huckabee.

Mr. Stewart made a few jokes about the Saturday debate on ABC, then stuck to the strike. His audience is younger than that of his network rivals; he is particularly popular with 20-somethings, many of whom rely on his show and its smart, wickedly irreverent insights and send-ups as their chief source of news.

On the night before the New Hampshire primary, all they heard was Mr. Stewart straddling a political issue of his own.

Ok, I Need to Find a Hobby…..

Leno Faces Writers Guild Action Over Monologues

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Jay Leno has defied the writers union by writing monologues.

Published: January 5, 2008
The restrictions that the striking Writers Guild of America has placed on late-night television hosts to keep them from writing material for their shows continued to have no impact on the leading late-night star, Jay Leno, who planned once again to write and perform a comedy monologue for NBC’s “Tonight Show” Friday night.

A spokeswoman said Friday that the guild would definitely take some action against Mr. Leno, who is a member.

“The answer is, he is not getting a pass,” said Sherry Goldman, a spokeswoman for the Writers Guild of America East. She said that the action to be taken had not yet been specified.

Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West, also pledged Friday that the guild would respond to Mr. Leno’s decision to continue writing his monologues.

Another impediment that the guild and its supporters have raised against the affected late-night shows — pressuring high-profile show business guests to avoid appearing on them — is proving to be a serious challenge for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” on NBC, as well as “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.

All three shows have reported resistance from publicists for many of the guests that the shows typically book. All three declined to release their guest lists for next week’s shows.

“The bookings continue to be tough,” said a representative of one of the shows, who asked not to be identified so as not inflame the opposition from the guild. “Why should we announce guests and invite the guild to try to give cold feet to those people?”

Because David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company reached a separate interim agreement with the East and West Coast writers unions, “Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS has been able to return with writers and is starting to assert another advantage it expects to enjoy over the other shows: booking guests.

Since they will not have to cross a picket line to appear with Mr. Letterman or on “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” — the show that follows his on CBS, which Worldwide Pants also owns — much bigger stars are lining up for both shows.

The best example: For Monday Mr. Letterman has booked perhaps the most appealing late-night guest from the movie world, Tom Hanks, and also plans an appearance by Mike Huckabee, who just won the Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa. Mr. Letterman is also trying to land the Democratic winner, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, for Wednesday night.

Political guests, especially Democrats, may gravitate to Mr. Letterman and Mr. Ferguson because they will not have to antagonize labor unions to appear on those shows.

On Wednesday night Mr. Huckabee did turn up as the lead guest on Mr. Leno’s first show after two months off because of the strike, helping Mr. Leno to a dominant ratings win over Mr. Letterman. That was considered a coup for Mr. Leno because Mr. Letterman could use material from his writers, while Mr. Leno declared that he was able to write material for himself. The guild contends that he cannot.

The ratings margin did shrink on Thursday, the second night of strike-affected programming in late night. Yet Mr. Leno still won, drawing an estimated 5.2 million viewers to 4.6 million for Mr. Letterman. On Wednesday the numbers had been 7.2 million for Mr. Leno and 5.5 million for Mr. Letterman.

But in the narrower audience segment of viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the primary group advertisers seek in late night, Mr. Leno’s edge was even smaller Thursday. In that group he had an advantage of just one-tenth of a rating point: a bit less than 2 million for Mr. Leno and slightly more than 1.8 million for Mr. Letterman.

Two other late-night entries are scheduled to rejoin the competition Monday. “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert will both resume production on the Comedy Central cable channel. The shows have been seeking to make their own deal with the Writers Guild for an agreement similar to the one Worldwide Pants was able to reach.

The shows have contended in negotiations with the guild that they have just as much right to an agreement and that to deny them would amount to favoritism to Mr. Letterman. But as of Friday no deal had been made.

That meant those two shows remained subject to the guild’s restrictions on writing, though it was not yet clear how Mr. Leno’s defiance of the guild’s rules might affect what Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert, who like Mr. Leno are members of the writers guild, decide to present as comedy material.

Both those shows displayed the same caution about booking guests as the others subject to the strike. Neither released a planned guest list for the week.

In other strike news, the president of the Screen Actors Guild reiterated on Friday that members would not cross picket lines to appear on the Golden Globes awards show Jan. 13.

“There appears to be unanimous agreement that these actors will not cross W.G.A. picket lines to appear on the Golden Globes Awards as acceptors or presenters,” the president, Alan Rosenberg, said in a statement released after a meeting with some nominees on Friday.

The Golden Globes are scheduled to be shown on NBC, but the fate of the broadcast, and possibly the ceremony itself, remains unclear.

Brian Stelter contributed reporting.From the New York Times