Yesterday we talked about how greatly Dave Letterman is revered, how, despite Leno winning the ratings battle, Letterman has clearly won the Late Night war. Part of his appeal, admittedly, has been his aloofness, his refusal to play by the rules and pander to either the audience or the guests. His rough edge is what, ironically, has made him endearing for three decades. But there are times, rare but documented, when Dave abandons his cranky side, however briefly and shows true compassion. It is that sensitive, caring, paternal part of Dave that is the flip side to his default curmudgeon state, the yin to his prickly yang that has made him so beloved and appreciated. And it was precisely that element of Dave that was on display when Lindsay Lohan appeared on The Late Show to, ostensibly, promote her appearances with Charlie Sheen in Scary Movie 5 and on Anger Management. However, with Lindsay due to enter court mandated rehab in May, and with Dave’s history of engaging troubled starlets, including Lohan, Letterman not surprisingly steered the conversation towards off-camera matters, boldly confronting Lohan about her personal problems. It was awkward and sad and kind of hard to watch, and certainly not something you’d see from Jay Leno, but it was also classic Dave. And, despite Lohan’s obvious discomfort you can see that she appreciates Dave’s concern, and, conversely, it is plain that Dave’s concern is genuine.
You can argue that Dave was wrong to drudge up her personal life – clearly Lohan is not in the right state of mind to address these things on-camera – but despite whatever sensationalist motive Dave might have had, you can’t argue that Dave does not care about Lohan. He’s a lot of things, but disingenuous it not one.
In other late night news, reports are indicating that Alec Baldwin is interested in hosting a late night talk show, potentially taking over the 1:35am slot currently (still, somewhat shockingly) occupied by Last Call with Carson Daly,* and that NBC is likewise interested in continuing their relationship with Baldwin. This show would most likely take on the form of an intimate one-on-one interview, something like a television version of Baldwin’s WNYC podcast Here’s the Thing. It would also be akin to Tom Snyder’s Late Late Show, which we discussed in yesterday’s post. As opposed to the possibility of Seth Meyers taking over for Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, which we explained might be an ill-advised choice, we think this makes more sense. Baldwin is already in the Lorne Michaels/Broadway Video family, having just finished his career redefining stint on the Michael’s produced 30 Rock and having become the definitive SNL host (non-Justin Timberlake category). He’s arguably as popular as ever, and, as his podcast interview with Billy Joel showed, he can be simultaneously intelligent and well-read while still just feeling like a regular guy from Long Island. It’s that easy-going charisma that would make Baldwin a successful interviewer, and it’s not absurd to think that people would enjoy tuning in to see him chat with other actors, writers, musicians for an hour. In fact, it has so much promise, and is so different from what Jimmy Fallon does, it might actually make for a better companion directly after The Tonight Show, whether under the banner of Late Night or as something entirely new. With Fallon’s show being so frantic, so silly, so irreverent, it might be nice to pair it with something more old-fashioned and slower-paced, even if it’s just a Baldwin hosted show one night a week. And Baldwin can do it as long as he wants, until either he or Lorne is ready to for someone or something else. Worst case scenario, it can’t be as bad as The Chevy Chase Show.