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Analyzing David Letterman's retirement: The bigger picture

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, David Letterman breaks

(Credit: CBS)

David Letterman announced his retirement last night, but why now? Quickly, some background: Here's what I wrote a couple weeks ago., but to add to this -- there's no indication this was any decision other than Dave's.

What about Dave? Letterman turns 67 April 12. He is -- yes -- the second greatest late night talk show host in TV history, and also the second oldest: Johnny Carson was 66 when he retired in 1992.

The rule in television is, just to restate, ironclad -- older audiences mean reduced profits, and with younger crowds at ABC and NBC, there will also be pressure at CBS to lower its average age, by grooming a new generation of "Late Show" viewers with (alas) a new "Late Show" host.

Letterman, who has a contract through 2015, has given no indication that he plans to step aside -- or as he put it to Oprah during an interview a year or so ago: "When it’s time to go, somebody else tell me. Because I don’t know when it’s time to go.”

No one wants to see Letterman go. I never want to see Letterman go. He is the greatest, most entertaining, most inventive late-night host in my lifetime. He is Dave. There is no other Dave and never will be.

That said . . . reality is reality. Letterman will be moving along someday. For whom? Replacement possibilities remain the obvious ones -- and Craig Ferguson is not among them.

Because "The Late Late Show" host lost regularly to Fallon's "Late Night," there's appears to little chance he would succeed at 11:35 opposite Fallon again, or so the logic goes. A shame: Ferguson's "Late Late Show" is endlessly amusing, his monologues funny and his sidekick, Geoff, probably the single finest animatronic skeleton in late-night history. But still. Stephen Colbert's contract at Comedy Central ends this year, Jon Stewart's next year.

There now appears to be growing industry consensus that Colbert may now be the heir apparent. Is it the CBS consensus? The Colbert one? By the way, the average age of "The Colbert Report" viewer is 43. My kicker:

Stephen Colbert could well be the next host of "Late Show."

And of course, this: We'll see.

Josh Elliott uninvited to his own on-air 'Good Morning America' farewell

Josh Elliott, former co-host of ABC's "Good Morning

(Credit: ABC)

For evidence that there may be some lingering bitterness at ABC in the wake of Josh Elliott's departure from "Good Morning America" for NBC Sports, look no further than Thursday's edition of "Good Morning America" where the network bid goodbye to its former star -- without the former star being there.

I'm hearing he was never even invited -- an indication ABC is probably angered at the way this whole thing has shaken out. In a conference call with sports media reporters Wednesday, Elliott said his move was a.) Not about the money nor b.) Had nothing with his relationship with ABC News chief, Ben Sherwood, whom he "loved" and so forth.

However . . . ABC, which offered him a reported $3-5 million to stay (versus the $2-3 million reported deal at NBC), may be feeling burned for a host of reasons. Foremost, even if Elliott never even sets foot inside Studio 1A -- as the potential successor to Matt Lauer, as industry chatter would have it -- he's suddenly put "GMA" in an awkward position. ABC was forced to scramble for a male replacement, surprising everyone, including the likely replacement himself, Michael Strahan. (Amy Robach will be the new news anchor; Strahan's role remains undefined at this point.)

Plus, as I've noted before, this confuses succession plans at ABC. George Stephanopoulos isn't going to be there forever -- hey, no one is going to be anywhere forever, except maybe Robin Roberts who now has a long-term deal and is absolutely vital to the ongoing success of this franchise. It had to have occurred to someone that Elliott might be a reasonable candidate for the job one of these days . . . Remember that in morning TV, successions don't happen over night, but usually take years.

More industry gossip: That Elliott hated the early, early mornings, and the hours, so maybe he had other ideas.

ABC declined to comment for this post, and Elliott could not be reached for comment.





Jimmy Fallon, Sarah Palin, Vladimir Putin: Strangest of bedfellows

Sarah Palin and Jimmy Fallon re-enacted a phone

(Credit: YouTube / Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon )

Sarah Palin -- promoting her new Sportsman Channel series "Amazing America," which launches Thursday night -- was on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on Wednesday, playing to Mama Bear character and daring Jimmy Fallon's now-established "Vlad Putin" to invade Alaska.

It was all quite amusing and established once again that late night TV remains the oddest of American art forms.

Watch the video below.

(Newsday's app and mobile users can click the link above to watch.)

Bill Clinton, Jimmy Kimmel discuss Roswell aliens (like, from outerspace)

Children eye a model of an alien on

(Credit: AP)

Good, funny, interesting and somewhat loopy Jimmy Kimmel interview with Bill Clinton on last night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."  What we learned: the 42nd president says there were no aliens that he is aware of during his tenure, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. My question: If there are no aliens then what the heck is that thing in the Roswell museum? (See above.) Answer me THAT, Mr. President.

(App readers, watch the video here: Unfortunately, this content is unavailable on mobile phones.)

Lindsay Lohan on 'Late Show with David Letterman' Wednesday

Lindsay Lohan talks to David Letterman about rehab,

(Credit: AP)

Welcome to TV Zone, AKA Where-the-Lindsay-Lohan-Watch-Never-Stops: To that end, she'll be on "Late Show with David Letterman" next Wednesday, April 9. She's also on the following Monday's "Two Broke Girls," where she plays "Claire," or as CBS notes:  

As Max and Caroline get to know her, it quickly becomes clear that Claire has trouble making decisions.

(Just to re-iterate, as to avoid confusion, Claire/Linds has "trouble making decisions," not "trouble-making decisions...")


Michael Strahan to join 'Good Morning America,' remain on 'Live with Kelly and Michael'

Michael Strahan, co-host of "Live with Kelly and

(Credit: AP / Evan Agostini)

Michael Strahan -- forever and affectionately No. 92 -- is about to get a closer close-up: He's joining "Good Morning America." 

Meanwhile, Strahan just indicated on the air that the "GMA" move will happen but not as an "every day thing...Gotta be smart about it." He also said "Live" remains "my home...This is great. I'm not sore after the show. We'll see what happens but this is my number one priority."

Trade reports Tuesday said Strahan is a "done" deal -- which I have confirmed -- and that he will be joining the "family" later this week. ABC has declined comment (officially) and is doubtless trying to cobble together answers to all the questions:

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How will he do this as well as "Live with Kelly and Michael," which he will remain a part of and which is live at exactly 9 a.m., or about one second after "GMA" wraps?

What happens when the NFL season rolls around again, and his services are required at Fox as an analyst? 

Is this one of those reflexive moves designed to quell any annoying questions about the loss of Josh Elliott and how the "family" of "GMA" is really not a " family" but just a group of squabbling rich people who want to get richer now that "GMA" is No. 1? 

You know: Those kinds of questions. 

Fact is, Strahan has been a success at "Live," and ABC is scrambling to do whatever it can to blunt NBC's Steinbrenner moves -- paying fortunes to people in an attempt to dismember the winning team. Meanwhile, the president of ABC News, Ben Sherwood, is about to become the president of the entire Disney empire; he does not want to leave a shattered "GMA" as his legacy. (And by the way, "shatter" is a highly unlikely scenario certainly in the foreseeable future: "GMA" remains a strong number one...)  

And that is how TV works, my friends ...

'How I Met Your Mother': All about Robin, after all

From left, Cobie Smulders (Robin), Alyson Hannigan (Lily),

(Credit: Fox / Ron P. Jaffe)

Robin Scherbatsky, take a bow: The whole darn show, "How I Met Your Mother," was really just about . . . you. How many saw last night's ending coming? All of you? OK, fine. Good for you.

I didn't (entirely). But all the clues were there, for all to see over nine seasons. That this ride should end with the blue French horn and Robin looking out her window (with dogs) was in one sense the perfect wrap -- tying back to the very beginning, and really what this whole story was about in the first place: How love sometimes -- if one is very, very lucky, or not named Barney Stinson --- endures.

In another sense, too, it was an elaborate con job, the ultimate TV April Fool's joke that didn't "pay off" so much as just play one more trick on viewers by now reasonably used to them. "HIMYM" was one continuous head-fake -- false turns, dead-ends, MacGuffins, red herrings . . . you  name it, they did it here. That was certainly the show's prerogative, just as it was fans' prerogative to complain about it. But the final "twist" also felt a bit too convenient -- a bit, well, like just another bit.

It was certainly bittersweet, too -- considering that "mother," as fans had long suspected, would not survive, and had in fact not even been alive during the telling of this. That was obvious for many seasons, by the way, and a fan suspicion for many of those seasons, too. After all, where was mom? Why didn't she come in to interrupt the tale, to tell everyone it was time for dinner, or school, or that "dad" got that detail wrong, etc.?

Plus, fans never really got a chance to emotionally connect with "The Girl in the Yellow Umbrella." They didn't even learn her name until the final seconds from last night (Tracy McDonnell). Cristin Milioti was also perfect in her brief starring role, in glimpses over the last season.  

But they had connected with Robin. The whole story, therefore, was a pretext for dad to ask the kids permission to ask out "Aunt Robin . . ."

The finale was flawed: Too long, padded with extraneous material, bloated . . . Just like the final season, leading one to assume the finale/final season were an instance of money trumping the natural life of a TV series. (Happens all the time, by the way.)

Plus, Robin and Ted never aged . . . 15, maybe even 20 years had passed and nothing had changed -- Ted (Josh Radnor) and Robin had been cryogenically preserved, apparently.

Meanwhile, Cobie Smulders -- already a huge fanboy star, thanks to her "Avengers" movie role -- is about to get bigger, with "Captain America" and the next "Avengers." Here she is on "Late Show with David Letterman" last night.


Duchovny gets Manson-related NBC series

David Duchovny, 52. Born Aug. 7, 1960. The

(Credit: Getty Images)

David Duchovny, Charles Manson...unrelated names until this point in time: NBC has given a straight-to-series order for his '60s era period drama entitled "Aquarius" about Charles Manson, and the cop - played by DD - who chases him. Word of this show has been "out there," so to speak, but a 13-episode order? That's unusual and indicates a.) This might actually be a good series; and b.) Duchovny,...

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'How I Met Your Mother': Wait for it ... an appreciation

Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris

(Credit: CBS / Monty Brinton)

After this day ... wait for it ... no more "wait for it" jokes here. Promise. Meanwhile, here's my appreciation of "How I Met Your Mother," ending Monday after nine seasons.

"How I Met Your Mother" series finale, WCBS/2, Monday, 8 p.m.

What it's about: That long -- very long -- weekend on Long Island finally wraps Monday night, along with one of TV's beloved comedies, ending after nine...

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Louis CK's 'Saturday Night Live' is low-rated, high-quality

Louis CK attends a game between the Knicks

(Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Louis CK returned as host of "Saturday Night Live" and even the barest glance at Twitter yesterday seemed to suggest a desultory afterglow -- lowest rated, or near-lowest rated edition of the season, and therefore ho-hum.

But as usual, viewers who didn't bother to tune in missed one of the best episodes of the season -- excellent cold open, parodying President Obama's health care hard-sell, and easily the best host monologue of the entire season. Who knows really why ratings were low ... but there were nonrepresentative. (Many good skits, too.)

Meanwhile, here's CK's monologue -- actually an unusually non-blue eight minutes of very good and thoughtful material. "Thoughtful material" in a host monologue? Imagine that.


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