Letterman goodbye draws in huge audience

22 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

David Letterman offers sincerity in making his final round of goodbyes.

David Letterman’s last show was like (almost) all the rest of them: funny, wry, quietly wistful and oddly egoless for a show in which a man whose name was in the title stared right into the camera and talked extemporaneously about whatever was on his mind. “I’ll be honest with you,” David Letterman said at the outset of his very last TV show after more than three decades. “It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get ‘The Tonight Show.’“ What he did get, on show No. 6028 Wednesday of the nation’s longest late-night career, was a celebrity studded sendoff that reveled in nostalgia and, by the end, had also shoehorned in sentiment.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. There were clips, and terrific celebrity walk-ons—namely, the most star-studded Top Ten list in human history (fittingly, with a comedy Hall of Fame behind him, Letterman was mostly infatuated with Peyton Manning)—some heartfelt goodbyes and a closing montage set to the Foo Fighters’ (live) “Everlong,” Letterman’s favorite song.

Working with the topic “Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave,” Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Peyton Manning, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Barbara Walters and Alec Baldwin all gave the long-running late-night host a gentle ribbing. One of the funniest was Rock’s: “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.” As the guests and audience laughed, Letterman rejoined, “You know, I had nothing to do with that,” referencing his previous statement that he had no input on his successor. “I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on,” Letterman told The New York Times in April.

Even taking into account the host’s penchant for self-deprecation, Letterman’s farewell “Late Show” may not have been one for the television museum vaults. But the program was more about hitting all the right buttons and mentioning most of the important people than it was about trying to be an all-time great finale — or even a tight hour of television. Carrey used his time to fluff his hair and roll his eyes after calling Letterman an over-actor, Fey flipped the script on humor, thanking Dave for proving “men can be funny” before sidling back next to Manning, and Murray – who somehow got all the cake off him from the night before – delivered the Number One entry: “I’ll never have the money I owe you.” It all made for a fun, mawkish-free way of saying goodbye. Long after published TV schedules said James Corden’s “Late Late Show” should have started, Letterman was introducing his wife and son in the crowd and then bringing on Foo Fighters to deliver a rousing live soundtrack to a Letterman history photo montage — tailor-made for slowing down and hyperanalyzing on the web.

In that onslaught of frozen moments came one memory jolt after another: Harvey Pekar, “Late Night Monkey Cam,” Drew Barrymore flashing the host, Joaquin Phoenix and Farrah Fawcett, Warren Zevon and, literally, hundreds more. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again. Even with the driving rock music behind it, the montage was a reminder of how much of life so many Americans have lived with Letterman’s shows, first on NBC, beginning in 1982, and, for the past 22 years, on CBS. (A surprising number of the finale’s clips came from Letterman’s short-lived NBC morning show, in 1980, making the point that he set the template there.) Viewers would be forgiven for choking up a bit, as Norm Macdonald did on Letterman’s show last week and as Jimmy Kimmel did on his ABC late-night show Tuesday night in trying to convey how much Letterman meant to him. Both Kimmel and Conan O’Brien, who succeeded Letterman on NBC’s “Late Night,” delivered tributes to the 68-year-old Letterman that included an entreaty to watch Dave’s finale, not their own shows. “I’m gonna let you know the exact moment when Dave’s show is starting and I’d like you to switch over,” O’Brien said in his monologue. “I promise you we will not see a man of his talents and comedic integrity again in our lifetime. You should not miss out.” Letterman, then, has entirely transitioned from whippersnapper to eminence, from having purposely no-name guests to the kind of stature where, Wednesday night, three living ex-presidents of the U.S. and the current one opened the show by teasing that, with Letterman departing, “Our long national nightmare is over.” Throughout the night the host seemed more comfortable having others make fun of him or doing it himself than fully accepting his place in the pantheon.

After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. Here’s what he had to say about the praise that has been coming in media and from fellow comics such as O’Brien and other stars. “I can’t tell you how flattering, embarrassing and gratifying this has all been,” Letterman said on his show. “We’ve done over 6000 shows.

The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth. Dubya was only on the show once and was a target of Letterman’s mockery for more than a decade, including this hilarious montage of Dubya … well, being our Dubya.

Save a little for my funeral.” At another point, after a compelling backstage-at-the-”Late Show” video, Letterman said all those behind-the-scenes people, plus “best friend” and bandleader Paul Shaffer and his band, deserved more credit for the show than did he. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the “disorderly conduct” of the urban poor. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. Except for the “Tonight” joke referencing NBC giving “The Tonight Show” to Jay Leno instead of him in the early 1990s, Letterman’s monologue, never a strength, was, frankly, flat. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts.

Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war. Four of the five living Presidents coming together to make a joke about perhaps the most shameful moment in Presidential history, in tribute a comedian. Letterman’s penultimate show Tuesday featured Bill Murray tumbling out of a cake, a last, frosting-smeared reminder of the gleeful anarchy of the early days.

Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. Wednesday, though, was more Carson-esque, and David Letterman left an iconic broadcasting career behind by saying, “The only thing I have left to do, for the last time on a television program: Thank you and good night.” To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process.

Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers.

We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

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