The 20th of May 2015 in America, or 21st may 2015 in most parts of the world, marks the end of an era for late night television. Mr David Letterman had officially retired after 33 years of hosting late night show with David Letterman. The western audience and media made an expectedly big deal out of this. Which is understandable, even I am also moved by his dedication to television and the fact that I won’t be able to try to watch him from Youtube anymore.
Whatever legacy he left behind, David Letterman brought television comedy to another level, opening (or rather forcing) pathways for people like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, or even Jon Stewart and John Oliver to develop their own style of comedy that we can enjoy.
The media, and I will get specific after this, possesses a really unique ability to mirror the society and its timeline. The developing technology, humanity issues, conflicts, whatever it is, the media have the privilege to capture it and mediates it in whichever way they want to.
Television, in particular, is a medium that in itself has a very specific ability and position. It combines whatever it is that other medium have, sight, words and sounds, but yet, it promises no distraction like the Internet. Television position us in a sacred state where we can devote our attention and activity into the primary verb of watching the television.
Coming back to Dave, he represent the very idea of contemporary pop culture, he perfectly captures the idea of presence without ever being in the past or in the future. His show is so stubborn that it never actually cave into the world of social media or even the very idea of being viral. He managed to stay himself no matter at what year we are watching him on. He relies on technology, but yet do not rely on it to develop.
It is weird that me, a 22 year old, who never actually finish a single of his episode is saddened by his retirement. Because we are not losing just a mere late night host, we are not just losing some thousand possible episode, we are losing an icon for the format, for the medium.
My whole three years of Uni life, I was learning a lot about how Internet could possibly overturn everything, how the print media would slowly diminish and Television media could also possibly be replaced or at least merged with the Internet. And I have spent those three years witnessing exactly that happening. You know those producers has virtually no idea what to do when a news program or a current affairs program make a compilation of “cctv funny clip” in their rundowns.
Yet, Dave still managed to stay original, to keep his jokes and to keep the show about people. About actual human beings, not a riddled IT personnel who are too bored waiting for his software update and decided to troll all over the youtube page. He brings forwards comedy, sentimentality and the excitement of actual conversation.
David letterman is a rare case of the television we once knew. The television who are genuinely trying to makes us entertained, the television who are not even slightly worried about technology and rely on people’s imagination. The television who are already advanced, but not advanced enough that it has to worry about the Internet and losing their revenue.
Letterman has always reminded me of why I loved television. He reminded me of how it feels to be excited, to be laughing, and to be touched by a personal story. He reminded me to lay my back and slow down to enjoy whatever it is happening in the moment, instead of chasing a story by the minute it happens.
Slowly but surely, the television we once knew, and the television we know now will change. And for me, David Letterman retirement is more than a part of that change, for me, his retirement is way bigger than that. Because once upon a time, when I am sick with all the controversies and voyeurism that are happening in my TV set, I could just wait for Letterman to appear, or Craig Ferguson if I was really that bored.
We are losing more than just a television icon, we are losing a time machine, a format that we once loved, an entertainment that stays on its way no matter what happens with the technology or the business. I don’t think there will ever be a show that will be able to deliver the same feeling like Letterman’s show did. A show that no matter how long I’ve miss their episode, will still feel the same.
“I believe I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Am I either one? Absolutely not. Ladies and gentlemen, I am an American.” -David Letterman