Guests: Bill Murray, Billy Joel, Tom Brokaw, Paul Newman.
Everything promised by David Letterman during those summer promos is true: the new show is just like the old one, only at an earlier hour.
Moved from NBC’s studios to a revamped Ed Sullivan Theater, the show boasts a larger, spiffier set and more lavish graphics. Letterman’s crusty attitude doesn’t seem to have mellowed during his break, with most of the barbs during last night’s premiere hurled at his former employer, specifically (if not exclusively) NBC’s claim on certain elements of his show as “intellectual property.””Legally,” he proclaimed, “I can continue to call myself ‘Dave.’ ”
He can also continue to use a “Top 10” list, it seems, now called “‘The Late Show’ Top 10.” Monday’s list of ways the new show will be better included: “If they clap extra loudly, everyone in the audience gets a brand new car.”
Rift with the Peacock web was highlighted by an unannounced visit from NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, a frequent guest on “Late Night with David Letterman,” who grabbed cue cards and declared that “these last two jokes are the intellectual property of NBC.”
Bandleader Paul Shaffer’s station is bigger than before, with more keyboards to tinker with, and (it seems) less emphasis given to other musicians in the expanded band lineup — though drummer Anton Fig and bassist Will Lee were visible.
Musical guest Billy Joel used Shaffer’s musicians in addition to his own (a sometimes unfortunate rule of the old show evidently held over), and the sound mix of musical segment was characteristically less-than-crystalline.
Show began with regular Calvert de Forest (formerly known as Larry “Bud” Melman, a name owned by NBC) dressed in a tux in the center of CBS’ trademark eye, and featured several clips of Ed Sullivan, including one tricked up to show the long-dead emcee introducing Letterman, and a vintage clip introducing Paul Newman in the audience: at which point the real Newman arose from the real Letterman audience, delivering what may be the first episode’s best line: a puzzled “Where the hell are the singing cats?” (He was, Letterman explained, in the wrong theater).
Longest piece was a rambling segment with Bill Murray, feigning concern that the 11:30 audience wouldn’t know who Letterman is, and “helping” by supplying “Hello, My Name is Dave” tag and spray painting “Dave” on host’s brand-new desk.
In other words, it’s the same old Dave, who should have no trouble gaining and holding an audience.