What We Learnt From David Letterman’s Retirement: Be Online And Be A White Male
FOR years, David Letterman has been a televisual tour-de-force. However, the rug was getting pulled from under his feet, thanks to being old-school.
Of course, the only thing more old-school than Letterman himself, is the business he works in.
Letterman announced that he’s going to retire next year and there’s been a lot of nodding about how this was probably a good time for him to go. Sure, Letterman is great at being a nice guy who cracks jokes with celebrities, but he was fast becoming out of step. These days, you can’t simply be a great host to maintain an audience.
If you look at Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, they’ve incorporated a certain online quality, merging snappy clickbait stuff, with sketches and skits that rely heavily on social media. You’ve seen the celebrities reading out nasty tweets that have been aimed at them? You’ve seen the way the History Of Hip Hop videos with Fallon and Justin Timberlake have gone mental online?
Letterman wasn’t likely to be able to keep up with that. The world has shifted around him and he’s thinking with one foot on the beach already. And who can blame him?
However, there’s something more troubling about the departure of Letterman. His replacement was quickly announced in the shape of Stephen Colbert.
Of course, Colbert is great at his job and richly deserves all the praise and plaudits he’s received over the years – however, isn’t it lousy that we’re now faced with yet another middle-aged white man presenting a prestigious chatshow?
The number of options available to American TV execs in 2014, away from older, white men, was huge. Arsenio Hall, Dave Chappelle, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, RuPaul, Amy Poehler, Chelsea Handler and Nicole Byer are just some of the names that people got excited about seeing.
Of course, some of these names are perfectly fine and busy without the distraction of the late night chatshow slot, but it seems like it didn’t even cross anyone’s mind that, in television, the big gigs shouldn’t always go to White Men. There’s a reason Oprah was a TV giant for so long – she offer a different tone and a different voice to men.
Naturally, there’ll be arguments that it would be discriminatory toward men for looking elsewhere, but lets be honest here; men in these positions are ten-a-penny. If you want to watch a man host a fun, topical chatshow, watch Kimmel or Fallon. Or Craig Ferguson. Or Carson Daly. Or Jon Stewart. Or Pete Holmes. Or Seth Meyers. Or Conan O’Brien. Or Bill Maher. Or Greg Gutfield. Or… get the picture?
At the end of such a long and wonderful period, such was the Letterman years, TV execs concious that things needed a fresh edge and a modern twist, could’ve given audiences a new angle for the chatshow. It’s all very well having the Jimmies and their YouTube views, but wouldn’t it be great to see someone with a whole different cultural background in the hot seat? Different reference points, different angles, a different pace and vibe, and different recollections to the usual tried-and-tested blokey white stuff?
While TV is desperate to stay in touch with the internet age, there’s still some catching up to do.