David Letterman to retire from CBS in 2015

Seated with talk show host David Letterman, U.S. President Barack Obama makes an appearance on the...

Seated with talk show host David Letterman, U.S. President Barack Obama makes an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City in this September 18, 2012, file photo.

BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:58 PM ET


This is no stupid pet trick. David Letterman says he's retiring in 2015.

Letterman made the announcement at the taping of his show on Thursday afternoon in New York. The show was to air in its usual time slot, Thursday night on CBS and OMNI.

Well, Letterman did what he wanted to do in one respect, which was outlast his “frenemy” Jay Leno, who was bumped from The Tonight Show earlier this year. But really, for Letterman, who turns 67 next week, it is well past time.

I am saying this as one of his biggest fans. I've written this before, but arguably the most important TV show in my life was Late Night with David Letterman, his edgy and hilarious vehicle which aired from 1982 to 1993.

After NBC bypassed Letterman – against the wishes of Johnny Carson – and gave The Tonight Show to Leno, Letterman bolted to CBS, where he has remained ever since.

Maybe this announcement that he is retiring next year will reinvigorate Letterman for a victory lap.

The truth is, Letterman in the past couple of years has been virtually unwatchable, especially if, like me, you remember how brilliant he was in his heyday.

The question, I guess, is whether Letterman decided to leave on his own, or if someone at CBS had a chat with him, so to speak. For public consumption, CBS executives such as Les Moonves and Nina Tassler never have expressed anything but 100% support for Letterman. They knew not only that Letterman can be dangerous when he's mad at his own network, but they also had the repeated examples of uncomfortable late-night jockeying over at NBC. They wanted no part of that.

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It was written by New York Times late-night TV expert Bill Carter in one of his books that the only hour of the day Letterman isn't miserable is the hour in which he's doing his TV show. But increasingly, that has not been reflected in Letterman's performance. So maybe Moonves or someone has been watching Letterman recently and a dialogue began. And with Leno gone, maybe Letterman was more ready to listen than he ever has been before.

The jokes began almost immediately on Twitter on Thursday that Leno should be the leading candidate to take over for Letterman. Geez, the real joke is, Leno probably would do fine in that spot. But Letterman might just keel over once and for all. And this of course assumes that CBS wants to stay in the late-night game, because it wasn't in it prior to Letterman arriving.

Either way, David Letterman is leaving. He deserves all the praise he is going to get from now until his retirement. Some might see this as a sad thing. But I'm actually glad to hear the news, so I can concentrate on remembering him the way he was.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv


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