After escaping NBC
in 1993 David Letterman
accepted an offer from CBS
to take over the 11:30 late night
time slot for his own late night talk show
offered a deal that made Dave
one of the all-time greats. With a salary of $30 million, several million dollars in production budget, and the renovation of the old Ed Sullivan Theater
became one of the highest paid late night
stars since Johnny Carson
The show was set to premiere in August 1993 and, shortly before the show went on the air, Dave and CBS received a nasty letter from NBC claiming that the network owned what it called "intellectual property" from the old Late Night with David Letterman and threatened to sue if any elements from the old show appeared on the new one. The elements in question included the Top Ten List, Stupid Pet Tricks, and the name of Paul Shaffer's band (The World's Most Dangerous Band). In fact, Tom Brokaw of NBC appeared on the first Late Show and seized a cue card, claiming the joke written on it belonged to NBC.
After all was said and done Late Show premiered at the end of August 1993. Bill Murray was the first guest (just as he had been on the first edition of Late Night) and proved to be just as manic has he had been all those years ago. The show was an immediate success and proceeded to trump The Tonight Show with Jay Leno's ratings for ninety consecutive weeks.
Dave continued to use old elements that NBC had threatened to sue over, and in the end Dave's old network never followed through with the lawsuit. However, older elements did change a little bit to reflect the new 11:30 big-time slot. The Top Ten List became the Late Show Top Ten and began with a classy computer generated introduction. The core of the show's humor continued to be Dave's improv interactions with people.
The show quickly made friends with people in the neighborhood, several of whom became regular fixtures on the show. Rupert Jee's Hello Deli is often featured, and during the show's early days Rupert participated in a routine where he would go out into the city and Dave, watching from the safety of a van, would give Rupert instructions over a hidden radio that told the deli man to annoy and pester people. Other local celebrities included Mujibur and Sirajul, two Pakastani merchants who worked in a souvenir shop. Unfortunately when the owners' of the neighborhood buildings saw how popular the tenants were becoming, they raised the rents of the shops, forcing many out of business. As a result many familiar faces had to move out of the neighborhood, and therefore off the show.
Late Show has several on-going comedy gags. On Fridays Dave opens up the CBS Mailbag and answers letters and e-mails written by fans. On some Thursday nights the fastest growing quiz sensation "Know Your Current Events" takes center stage. Several popular segments include "Will It Float?", "Is This Anything?", and "What The Hell Is That?" in which Paul and Dave discuss unusual items. Announcer Alan Kalter occassionally takes part in these segments, and sometimes stagehand Biff Henderson shows up as well.
During the 2000 Presidental Election season the show began an on-going feature called Campaign 2000 to discuss the election and where the candidates stood. Both candidates, Al Gore and George W. Bush appeared on the show and discussed their policies. Campaign 2000 continued long after the conclusion of the election for some reason, and its a safe assumption that before too long we will be seeing Campaign 2004 appear on the show.
In 2000 Dave was rushed into emergency surgery one day for a heart bypass operation. During his time off the show became Late Show Backstage and featured celebrities discussing their fond memories of the gap-toothed funny man and introducing their favorite clips.
After the horrors of 9/11 Late Show was the first late night talk show to return to the air, and Dave gave an amazing speech about the horrors and aftermath that, in my opinion, helped to make it OK to laugh again. Dan Rather was the guest that evening, and the two talked policy and tragedy.
Late Show celebrated its ten year anniversary on August 29, 2003's edition of the show with a brief mention of the milestone on air. The unofficial celebration was not occur until February 2004 when CBS was to air a prime time special to commemorate Dave's 22 years on television, but the shy Letterman cancelled those plans quietly.
Late Show's ratings continue to rise and fall these days as his hardcore fans remain dedicated to his show. Some will say the show is past its prime and Dave just isn't funny, but I say the show is still just as entertaining as it ever was and my day just isn't complete without my hour of Late Show with David Letterman.