Letterman’s Retirement

David Letterman has announced that he will be retiring next year. He’s been the star of The Late Show With David Letterman for 21 years.

It’s interesting that Letterman’s retirement announcement came shortly after Jay Leno — Letterman’s chief rival for recognition as the successor to Johnny Carson as the King of Late-Night Television — retired. Letterman is another TV icon whose “top ten list” became part of the national zeitgeist. But I long ago stopped watching either Letterman or Leno, and I can’t remember the last time either of them had something significant or novel to say or do about America or the world. For years, they seemed to be living on past glory, attracting the habitual viewers who had watched them for years but not bringing in anyone new. Their shticks got old. People who were comfortable with them stuck around; people who were looking for something different looked elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see whether the late-night talk show format ends up passing into TV history, just as Jay Leno has done and as David Letterman will be doing next year. As I’ve noted before, it’s amazing that talk shows — a format that began at the dawn of TV, more than 60 years ago — are still around. If you’ve seen the commercial where a guy walks out of his kitchen eating a bowl of cereal or ice cream and finds himself on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, you’ve seen that talk shows are to the point of self-parody. Maybe Fallon’s spoofing of himself is supposed to be one of those new, ironic bits of humor that 50-somethings like me don’t get, but I see that commercial as an implicit recognition that late-night talk shows are trite and banal.

I wish David Letterman the best in his retirement, but maybe his decision to hit the road will allow the networks to finally come up with a new approach to late-night programming.


Today Kish and I celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. On April 3, 1982, we walked down the aisle in Vermilion, Ohio and said our vows.

00019729A lot has happened since that unseasonably cold day in the early years of the Reagan Administration. We’ve had two fine sons and proudly watched them grow through the toddler years, school, and college to adulthood. We’ve changed jobs, moved from Washington, D.C. to Columbus, and bought and sold houses. We’ve struggled with the loss of family members and loved ones. In some ways that wedding day seems long ago and in some ways it seems like yesterday, but one thing is clear: I’ve been incredibly lucky to share each moment with the most wonderful person in the world.

Kish picked the song Blue Skies to be the song we danced to at our wedding reception. As is the case with pretty much everything she decides, it was an apt selection. As I look back today at 32 happy years with my soulmate, one verse in particular stands out:

Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly