Thursday, February 01, 2007

Better 'Late' Than Never

Tonight, David Letterman celebrates his 25th anniversary on television (CBS, 11:35 p.m.)

I've always been a Letterman fan more than a Jay Leno one. It's not meant as a knock at Leno; I just find his stuff to be too pedestrian. Letterman is much more of a risk-taker, which is probably why late-night fans are more divided as to whether they love him or hate him.

But the fact is, Letterman has provided some of the most memorable moments of the last quarter-century on both "Late Night" and "The Late Show." Almost anyone who watches late night TV can point out their favorite or most memorable Letterman moment - Andy Kauffman vs. Jerry Lawler, the post 9/11 show, the various Cher appearances, etc. - whereas the only notable Leno moment I can think of is the famous interview with Hugh Grant after the latter's arrest some years ago.

Without Letterman expanding the concept of what you could do on late night TV, you don't get Conan O'Brien.

Finally, what I like most about Letterman is his class. For some reason, some people don't like Letterman because they think he's a jerk, when it's the opposite that's true. When ABC was set to cancel "Nightline" because of low ratings, Letterman came out in defense of the show even though it was his direct competition. When every other comedian was using Marv Albert's private life as a punchline, Letterman didn't at all, and continued to have his friend as a guest on the show.

By the way, Letterman's inaugural guest on both shows, the always-entertaining Bill Murray, is his guest tonight.

Here's hoping for 25 more great years, Dave.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Lots and lots of new stuff, all across the dial. A full slate of NBC comedies and a new "ER." ABC counters with new installments of "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Men in Trees." The CW gives us a new "Smallville" and "Supernatural." Fox is also completely new. CBS is running a "CSI" rerun at 8 p.m., but gives a new one at 9 p.m., followed by a new "Shark" at 10 p.m.

Also new tonight is the debut of Sarah Silverman's new show, "The Sarah Silverman Program" on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. Described as a rather absurdist take on sitcoms, the show has gotten mixed buzz, but decide for yourselves.


Zodin2008 said...

I couldn't diaagree more strongly on Letterman vs. Leno, as if we were talking House vs. 24.

I find Letterman to be a smug, arrogant, condascending prick, whereas Leno, whether you think he;s funny or not, has gone above & beyond trying to eb a nice guy, only to have the supposedly nice Letterman have a lot of names in teh late night world turn their backs on Jay.

I actually feel very strongly on this subject and will take the fight to Letterman, every time. I am rather bewildered and disgusted how nasty people have been towards Jay Leno and he's really one of the more generous and nice poeple in show business, whereas Dave has earned a not so sterling reputation.

Jay, who continually trounces Dave in the ratings, has been asked by his own network to relinquish his show's reigns in 2009. Now, I love Conan, I think he's hilarious as well, but considering how well Leno is doing, it's not only a risky move on the network's part, but downright insulting to Jay.

Furthermore, I get really disgusted when I see all the snobbery from various TV critics bashing Leno and calling him unfunny. To be fair, you went out of your way not necessarily to bash Leno and I applaud this. Writers like Tom Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle and Matt Roush at TV Guide, are unabashed about their love of Letterman and disdain for Leno.

I would rank all the late night and Cable players this way, and this is just my own personal 'Zod' list:

1. Real Time with Bill Maher

(the smartest and most fearless show on Television...I don't always agree with Maher but I am very addicted)

2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Consistently brilliant and funny and unlike Maher, Stewart doesn't take 3 months off at a time. Stewart works non stop but is always genius (even when I disagree with some of his politics).

3. Late Night with Conan O'Brien

I do think he's funnier then Leno, but I think he's also a 100X funnier then Dave. He or Jon Stewart should be allowed or required by law to host every awards show on the planet.

4. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Bo no means groundbreaking or edgy, but solid and comfort food.

5. The Colbert Report

I know many who think it's the most brilliant thing ever on Television, I liked Stephen Colbert a whole lot more as the main correspondent for "The Daily Show". I really don't get Colbert's entire show, since the whole premise for his nightly talk fest is based on him playing a fake character, all the time. It's just not very funny.

Colbert was far more brilliant to me in small doses.

6. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

I completely disagree with a good friend of mine who thinks Ferguson is awful, but I think he's charming and hilarious at times. He also usually has those great guests from TV shows I watch that aren't quite the A-list set. he's more likely to say have Turtle from "Entourage" ratehr then Vince but always a good time.

7. Jimmy Kimmel

He's mildly funny at times but his frat boy humor wears thin. At times, he can make me laugh out loud but I generally only watch if he's going to have a guest I want to see.

8. Later with Carson Daily

I only watch if he has a guest I want to see. He's on in the wee hours so I would have to record it anyway.

9. The Late Show with David Letterman

The only reason he would rank ahead of Spike Ferestein is that I have never actually SEEN an episode of Spike's show. David has never ever been funny to me in 25 years. yes, Dave, keep playing for 25 more years and I still won't be watching you sanctimonious jack--.

(sorry for the long post)

Phillip Ramati said...

I never said Leno wasn't nice or generous, and in fact, most things I've heard about him as a person are positive.

As I've posted many times here, everyone has their own taste. A lot of people don't get Letterman's humor, more's the pity to them.

I've never thought The Tonight Show was able to match The Late Show in the general energy it produces, and I'd like someone to point out one memorable moment Leno has produced that has matched Letterman's stuff.

Again, not knocking Leno, who is certainly fine and does well enough, but it doesn't match the stuff done by Letterman.

Zodin2008 said...

Well, yes, way to insult one of your eraders, Phillip...I'm one of those people who doesn't "get" Letterman.

And as for your 'memorable moments', the Lawler/Kauffman thing happened nearly 25 years ago amongst dave's first fiew years in Television, when he was on NBC and more of a fringe host. I hardly consider your first thought for greatest moment relevant to anything he's done in the last 20+ years.

Plus, besides not finding him remotely funny, he's also a jerk. I disagree with you 100% on this. His condascneding approcach to many people and things, but the thing that's particularly disgusted me over the years and the thing I personally can't stomach is they way he's gotten so many of his guests or late night compatriots to shun or diss Jay Leno. I can't think of a more mean spirited or nasty way to do business, and that's why I find Dave Letterman to be a nasty individual.

Furthermore, Letterman and Leno may in fact both be of the same political ilk (we know Letterman is a Democrat and I am pretty much understanding that Leno is too), but the big DIFFERENCE, the BIG DIFFERENCE is that when guests of both parties come on Jay's show, he jokes with them equally and terats each of his guests with respect.

He equally pokes fun at both parties in his monologue. As a political independent, I appreciate the evenhandedness Jay has always shown in his jokes & guests and even though just about everyone knows Jay is a Democrat, I don't think a Scott McClellan or a John McCain has ever felt uncomfortable visiting Jay.

Dave on the other hand can't hide his nastiness or disdain. I am sure the far left crowd maybe fine with this, but it's far more appropriate for Dave not to so openly play favorites with his political guests. I have less of a problem with Maher and Jon Stewart doing it because "The Daily Show" and "Real Time" are specifically POLITICAL shows.

"The Late Show with David Letterman" is supposed to be a late night, mainstream show broadcast to everyone in America on CBS & it's supposed to be for all of America. I tune into Jon Stewart to take his regular jabs (even when I disagree, it's been established what the show is and from what P.O.V.), but I don't tune in to see Dave play favorites. Just another reason why I don't tune in.

But when all is said and done, the only 2 late night shows I regularly record on DVR are "The Daily Show" and "Real Time". That's it...I watch Leno once in a while (used to watch him a lot more) & I avoid Dave like he's contagious.

pjianek said...

I love Letterman. I love Leno. I love Conan.

That being said, did anyone catch The Sarah Silverman Project? I missed it, but wanted to know if it is worth watching next week.

KellyC said...

I 'get' Letterman way more often than I get Leno. Letterman's humor comes natural when you can tell that Leno has to often stretch out his humor in an attempt to elicit at least a groan.

I wish I had discovered Craig Ferguson much sooner, which I feel is funnier even than Conan now. He has such a delivery style that is more in tune to listening to a real comedian rather than a talk show host... and his monologue is an average of 15 minutes nightly as opposed to all the others that wrap up in half of that.

Phillip Ramati said...

Loving one late night show doesn't make it mutually exclusive for loving another one. For me, it's usually the guest that decides which, if any, I'll watch.

I love Letterman. I like Leno. If you like one and don't like the other, that's why God created remote controls.

Pjianek, I didn't see Sarah Silverman's show, but it should be repeated a ton of times this weekend on Comedy Central, so you should be able to find it at some point.

kellyc said...

I caught Sarah's show the other night. What a bomb, IMHO. Catty white girl slinging ethnic and social insults just doesn't cut it in my humor book. I had seen & liked her stand-up comedy special, and wanted to like the TV show as well, but it just wasn't put together the same way.

That's my .02

Phillip Ramati said...

Kelly, I ended up not catching Silverman's show, so I can't say anything about its relative merits. But I've never really been a fan of her standup stuff, for some of the same reasons you mention.