Could David Letterman vacate "Late Show" next summer, if not sooner?
Letterman has yet to sign a contract extension that would keep him on the air beyond August - only 10 months from now - or the blink of an eye in late-night TV terms, per an industry source. The development's surprising if only because Letterman was widely reported to be poised to sign a two-year extension to his current deal over the summer.
What happened between last June when Letterman was eager to re-up and now? Do you really have to ask? But besides the controversy over the joke about Sarah Palin's daughter - for which he apologized - and the sex-extortion arrest of a man who tried to blackmail him, Letterman's "Late Show" ratings have soared, making the program the dominant force in late night TV for the first time since the early days at CBS, back in 1993.
In June, the Hollywood Reporter broke a story saying Letterman was about to sign an extension that would keep him at "Late Show" through 2012 - particularly significant in light of the fact that the year would mark 30 years in late night, or exactly equal to his idol, Johnny Carson. The padding also hypothetically gave Letterman and CBS time to consolidate their lead at 11:35 against a fading "Tonight" while grooming a possible successor. A New York Times report later noted that Letterman was close to signing, and had even agreed to a reduction in the license fee CBS pays to air "Late Show," produced by Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants.
Why? Obvious speculation - that either CBS pulled the deal off the table or Letterman did. Fatigue (the job is absolutely grueling) or keeping his options open? A Letterman spokesman declined to comment.