David Letterman, the longest-running host in the history of late-night television, announced that he will retire from his CBS show next year, the latest shakeup in a rapidly changing late night talk-show lineup.
Mr. Letterman, who has always used his show as the outlet for discussing developments in both his life and his career, revealed his decision during a taping Thursday afternoon in Manhattan.
Mr. Letterman, 66, said he had informed the CBS president, Leslie Moonves, of his intention to step down from “The Late Show” at the end of his current contract, which expires in 2015. Mr. Letterman is considered by many to be the most original voice in the late-night format, and Mr. Moonves has been steadfast in his assurances in recent years that he would never ask Mr. Letterman to retire, saying at one point, “You don’t do that to a television legend.”
His departure will mean that the coveted 11:35 pm time slot will have a largely new lineup of hosts. In January of 2013, Jimmy Kimmel moved his ABC show from midnight to 11:35, and in February Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno on NBC’s “Tonight” show.
Yes, I know that Letterman has been phoning it in for a few years and went off the lefty political deep end during the 2012 election, but for a good chunk of the ’80s and ’90s he knew how to bring it. I’ve been around so long I remember when he was doing stand-up even before he became a regular guest-host on The Tonight Show. The battle between him and Leno to take over Johnny Carson’s spot was some of the best behind the scenes television drama ever (Bill Carter, who wrote the above-linked article, authored a great book about it called The Late Shift).
I was only half kidding about Leno calling CBS. Jay is a noted workaholic and more than likely wasn’t thrilled with having to exit NBC this year.