The David Letterman Show

NBC (ended 1980)


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The David Letterman Show

Show Summary

In 1980, following lengthy negotiations, NBC president Fred Silverman and Johnny Carson arrived at a contract agreement which would keep the "King of Late Night" in place for another three years. Part of that agreement included the creation of Carson Productions. One of the first projects for Johnny's stable was to create a show around frequent "Tonight Show" guest host David Letterman. "The David Letterman" show was a live, 90-minute alternative to game shows, soap operas and syndicated reruns of old sitcoms. Regulars included Edie McClurg as "Mrs. Marv Mendenhall" (whose last name was inspired by Paul Mendenhall, a longtime radio voice in Dave's college town of Muncie, Indiana), Valri Bromfield as crazy teen "Debbie Smith," and Paul Raley as conspiracy-crazed former FBI agent "P.J. Rails." NBC newsman Edwin Newman provided (real) news updates. The first announcer was comedian Bob Sarlatte; Bill Wendell would later assume announcing duties. Frank Owen (II) was the bandleader, and Doobie Brother Michael McDonald (I) wrote the show's theme. In addition to the usual fare of celebrity interviews, Dave focused on the "everyday" person -- frequently taking the camera out of the studio and onto the streets of New York. The results were frequently hilarious, but just as regularly uneven. Letterman's girlfriend Merrill Markoe was a major on and off-screen contributor to the show; many of the remote location and in-studio ideas from the morning show would be subsequently refined and made successful, including Markoe's creation, "Stupid Pet Tricks." At the onset, Silverman was high on the show -- guaranteeing a 26-week run. "It is going to capture audiences where tired game shows couldn't," he told NBC affiliates. Silverman wanted the show to be "folksy and family, a kind of Arthur Godfrey for the 80's." Letterman obviously thought otherwise. His intent to begin his first week of shows with a "cancellation sweepstakes" -- inviting viewers to guess the actual date the show would be axed -- was shot down by Silverman. Often compared to the equally satirical America2Night, the show would win two daytime Emmy awards. However, "The David Letterman Show" would prove to be too far ahead of its time, or more specifically, its time-slot -- as its college crowd humor was lost on middle America's housewives. Following its cancellation after just 90 shows, a miserable Letterman -- thinking he'd blown his big chance -- would wait it out while on retainer to NBC (at a reported $1 million per year), until his brand of humor found a home with the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman.moreless
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  • Decent 75% of the time

    I liked David Letterman. He hosted his Tv show for a long time and now it feels sad to see him go after all those years. Hope his replacments as good as he is.
  • Three decades of quality comedy and variety.

    How can anybody not like the David Letterman Show...a TV icon, we've watched his hair grow gray over the decades delivering genuinely funny stand up routines and classic bits that have been imitated and parodied by God only know how many other comedians over the years. We've watched him showcase remarkable new talent and help to launch some truly stellar careers, all without losing that the-worlds-oldest-college-boy-master-of-ceremonies-at-a-frat- house-hazing style of his that is his trademark. Right up there with the all time greats of late night comedy like Johnny Carson (God rest him), may David Letterman's star continue to shine, coronary bypass and all!moreless
  • So much fun to watch!!!!

    I watch this show all of the time, because you always seem to get a laugh out of it. This show is great fun. David Letterman always comes out with fresh material, and is not affraid of embarassing himself. He is funny, nice, and just plain enjoyable to watch.

    Not to say this show is'nt bizzare, but it's bizzare in a good way. He somehow manages to make you laugh even if it's a really stupid joke he's telling. David letterman is an awesome show and I would recomend it to anyone, I personally watch David Letterman over any othe talk show. 8/10 -MangekyouCinemamoreless
  • This could be the beginning of a very bizarre friendship.

    Former weatherman and comedian David Letterman got the chance to start his own show in the 1980s on the heels of support from the legendary Johnny Carson. Dave began his reign as the sharpest of the young late-night hosts.

    There are not that many shows where the host will tell off his guests, break things, play quiz games about food with the audience, and generally act like the weird kid that used to shoot spitballs in the back of class. He was a trailblazer in many ways.

    Dave later switched networks, but his eccentric genius is the same.

    There's only one of him. Heaven knows what two would be like.moreless
  • Daytime David!

    This is very much the precursor to the much-loved late night show on NBC.

    I remember going on vacation to my grandmother's and running to the back room to watch this. It was goofy, and funny and nothing like anything that was on at the time.

    If you get a chance to see any of this show, you will find the beginnings of many of Mr. Letterman's classic gags, as well as some damn fine comedy.moreless