I’ve watched more of David Letterman’s late-night show during the May sweeps than I have in years and learned one valuable lesson before tonight’s finale on CBS.
If you’re going to DVR the finale starting at 11:35 p.m. on Channel 4, make sure you also DVR James Corden’s new show that follows Letterman’s program.
That’s because just about every time this month that I recorded Letterman’s program it cut off before the final goodbye or the credits rolled.
I’m not sure if I missed a second or a minute but I am sure I don’t want to miss anything tonight – especially if the final show signs off a minute or two late.
Besides, it is a good idea to check out Corden’s show anyway.
The big mystery tonight is whether Letterman’s final show will include an appearance from his old friend and rival Jay Leno, who was NBC’s choice to succeed Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” before Letterman bolted to CBS.
Letterman suggested a week or so ago on the air that Leno would decline any invitation and it won’t happen. It is a needless mystery because the show tapes around 5 p.m. and viewers will know the answer for six and a half hours before the show airs anyway.
Tonight’s finale should be the highest-rated Letterman show during sweeps.
The farewell tour hasn’t been that big a draw in Western New York. After Monday’s episode, Letterman is averaging about a 3.8 rating on Channel 4, slightly ahead of the 3.5 for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Channel 4. Bill Murray's appearance Tuesday had a 5.2 rating, which is the top-rated night of the sweeps. The top-rated nights before Tuesday were President Obama’s appearance on May 4 and George Clooney’s appearance on May 14. Both had 5.0 ratings.
Of course, I suspect many more people watched the Letterman episodes as I did – via my DVR several days after most of them aired.
One of the highlights of the month in Buffalo undoubtedly were all of the Tom Brady jokes after the New England quarterback was suspended in the Deflategate scandal. The funniest moment came when photos were shown of Brady’s mansion and his beautiful model wife to illustrate how poor Tom will have to sit out his suspension.
Without further ado, it’s time to rank the Top 10 guests during Letterman’s final sweeps month, going in reverse order of course. I should note I did not see Oprah Winfrey's appearance on May 15.
- Howard Stern: Since everyone else visiting felt obligated to declare their love of Letterman as the legendary host looked uncomfortable, Stern’s very different tact of abusing the host actually worked with the help of Letterman’s disdaining facial expressions. He was briefly joined on the program with Don Rickles. Rickles was seated in his chair before he was introduced, undoubtedly to save him the walk. Mr. Warmth’s body may be failing him, but he still has a sharp mind. He spent more time praising Stern than abusing Letterman Still, it was good stuff.
- Tina Fey: She wore an extra layer of underwear and still looked skinny before she took it off to laughter. Not many women probably like being laughed at when they strip but Fey most definitely is one of them.
- Bill Clinton: To be honest, the first Grandfather sounded a little old, which may have cost his wife some votes. If he seems old, it could rub off on his wife as she seeks presidential votes.
7. Julia Roberts: Ah, they kissed again after a trip down memory lane of several of her previous appearances when they both looked much younger. How sweet.
6. Ray Romano: He arrived to thank Letterman, whose production company was behind “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Romano also carried several photos of all the actresses that he has kissed thanks to becoming a star after appearing on Letterman’s show. He ended it by showing a kiss with “Raymond” co-sytar Doris Roberts, who isn’t to be confused with Julia.
5. President Obama: He really is a terrific late-night guest and had a good time trading retirement plans with Letterman, suggesting they start playing dominoes together.
4. Adam Sandler: His special song to Letterman was rude, crude and funnier than his recent movies. Of course, that isn’t saying much.
3. Bill Murray: In Tuesday’s semifinal episode, he was goofy as ever and demonstrated why he has been a favorite Letterman guest. He jumped out of a cake, traded vodka shots with Letterman and then tried to start a rally outside West 53rd Street to keep Letterman on the air. Bob Dylan ended the evening by singing an appropriate song -- the Frank Sinatra classic, “The Night We Called It a Day.” And more than half the words were understandable.
2. Tom Hanks: On Monday night’s episode, Hanks really tried hard to entertain, telling an old story about being nearly destitute before the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” premiered and a new story about shooting a recent film with director Ron Howard. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam ended the night by singing a terrific version of “Better Man.”
- George Clooney: This is no surprise to my regular readers. I am a big Clooney fan and he didn’t disappoint. He handcuffed Letterman and told him he can’t leave the show that night or ever. He cracked some jokes about the differences between his wife’s work as a human rights advocate and his work and delivered a sappy Letterman tribute, “You belong to us for the ages,” said Clooney. No argument here as the Letterman era ends tonight.