TV postsSunday May 24, 2015
David Letterman: Puncturing the Culture Rather than Propping It Up
I think The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum describes his revolutionary appeal to my generation better than anyone:
For more than thirty years, David Letterman has been the guy working the talk-show host. But he's never hidden how tricky it is to move those levers, which has been his appeal to fans: in a job made for smoothies, he's kept showing us his flaws, those spikes of anger and anxiety, almost despite himself. Now that Letterman's a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it's become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist. His manner suggested that TV could puncture the culture rather than prop it up. My friends, particularly the guys, became his acolytes, quoting his catchphrases (“They pelted us with rocks and garbage”) and copying his deadpan affect.
The whole piece, “Good Night: David Letterman's last weeks,” can be found in the latest New Yorker. Or here.
I missed that first show, but not much from that first year.
They're Not Crying; They're Saying 'Daaaaaaave'
I haven't written much about the retirement of David Letterman, which officially began today, mostly because I haven't really watched his show for the last 20 years or so. But in the 1980s, when he was on after Johnny Carson and I was just starting college, he was our guy. He was the first one to mock the thing he was on. Applause seemed something to endure impatiently rather than bask in. He said “Ladies and Gentlemen” with bite. He did riffs on sports phrases: “For those of you scoring at home.” Or my personal favorite: “They're not booing; they're saving Daaaaaaave.”
I still remember an early bit, The Museum of the Hard to Believe, which included “the guy who refused to see 'E.T.' no matter what his friends said.” The dude just stood there with arms folded, shaking his head quietly. That was my intro to Chris Elliott, who would become a Letterman staple.
I'd forgotten the bit below until reminded by my friend Kevin Featherly. It's basically Dave doing Michael Moore three years before Michael Moore. The balls that guy had:
The last month has been a parade of stars getting visibly verklempt before Dave: Norm Macdonald (great standup routine, too); Adam Sandler; Chris Elliott; Jimmy Kimmel; Ray Romano. It's been quite touching. But they're not crying, ladies and gentlemen; they're saying “Daaaaaave.”
Was 'Zero Dark Thirty' CIA Propaganda?
It's on Frontline tonight:
A couple of things from this preview: “Zero Dark Thirty” was never “bound to be a blockbuster” nor was it supposed to be; it was a small, prestige picture. And all critics didn't rave; there was sharp controversy back then. My own review of “Zero Dark Thirty” is full of mixed feelings and failed attempts to parse it all out.
Anyway, I plan to check this out.
The Hollywood Reporter lists eight highlights from the 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' press tour, from “Family Feud” on Jimmy Kimmel to Chris Evans spooking Scarlett Johansson on “Ellen,” to, of course, Robert Downey Jr. walking away from a British journalist's questions about his druggie past. But my favorite was their eighth pick. I'll call it “Hawkeye's Lament”:
Nice pipes, Jeremy. Martini glass makes the scene.
The movie, btw, supposedly pulled in $84 million in the U.S. box office yesterday, which, if it holds, is the second-highest-grossing single day total ever. Last “Harry Potter” holds that record at $91 mil.
The Final Poster for the Final Season of 'Mad Men'
I saw it while I was in New York last week:
Nice, no? The All-American man, with the All-American job, smoking a cigarette and driving the All-American car into the sunset. Because it's all about to go away, Don.