My Next Guest Needs No Introduction has the fashionable, minimalist structure of a televised stand-up comedy or tour documentary, the host stepping over wires and past crew to take to the stage in the intro, the emphasis being placed entirely on who or what is on it. Speaking for myself, and with all due respect to the innovations David Letterman brought to late-night TV in a stellar and admirably lengthy career, I was always more of a Leno guy anyway. But this is clearly a way for the host to keep his hand in the game, while stripping away the less appetizing aspects of his late-night gig - at least for him - by letting him spend time talking to people he genuinely enjoys and admires.
"Alright, that's pretty much all I got", he said on his final "Late Show" on CBS on May 20, 2015, just before a closing performance by Foo Fighters.
The remainder of the show consists of a solemn field segment with Letterman and Congressman John Lewis in Selma, Alabama.
The first episode features an interview with former President Barack Obama, his first television interview since leaving office in January 2017.
What could seem better than getting David Letterman and former U.S. President Barack Obama together again and sitting them down in front of an audience to talk for an hour about whatever's been on their minds since they both left their old jobs? Obama brought up how the partisan blurred line between fact and fiction right now has been a strain on the country's democracy.
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"We are operating in completely different information universes [now]".
Surprisingly, Letterman sticks to the interview format for the duration. Lewis believes if there's no march, if there's no movement, there's no Obama presidency. If you were hoping that there would be Stupid Pet Tricks or some other moth-balled skit from the past, you're out of luck. "Can you put the desk lamp together?' I said, 'Sure'". It had been coming out even before that - not outright boredom with talking about movies or TV series, or even a moving away from amusing or silly bits, but a definite push toward something a little less rote or mechanical in the responses he wanted from his guests. It's Lewis who gets the opportunity to deliver the show's clearest comment on President Donald Trump, after Letterman asks the senator about his decision to skip last year's inauguration. Over the hour, Letterman and Obama talk about the redefinition of facts in our collective present.
"It was interesting to see how everybody handled things differently", Obama said.
The logo for the new series is lovely. No band, no backdrop, not even a table, just a stage, two chairs, an audience, Dave, and his guest. As the credits roll, Netflix plays a brief clip revealing that Letterman's next guest will be George Clooney. "There you go", he says. That's not really the point, it appears. That's it. Nothing revolutionary here. Although Letterman is too experienced and too wry by nature to engage in outright platitudes, his series's premiere feels like a lot of generalities and old news masquerading as something more profound.