NBC aired its much-publicized interview with David Letterman on Friday night. (Its original air-date had been postponed due to news coverage of the Orlando massacre.) Conducted by Tom Brokaw as part of something NBC is now calling Dateline: On Assignment, the interview featured Letterman in full hairiness. “My son says it’s creepy,” said Letterman about his long, scruffy white beard. Dave said he told Harry, now 12, “You’re stuck with creepy old dad.”
In promoting the interview, NBC pretty much gave away all the good stuff in its preview clips. Yes, Letterman did refer to Donald Trump as “despicable,” but he also placed the remark in a certain context. “I understand that he’s repugnant to people,” he said to Brokaw, “but you tell me: The men putting together the Constitution, witnessing this election, wouldn’t they have said, ‘Well, yeah, that’s part of the way we set it up’?”
Letterman said, “I couldn’t care less about late-night television,” adding that he thought at first he might miss being on the air, but “then, the first day of Stephen [Colbert]’s show when he went on the air — an energy left me and I felt like, ‘You know, that’s not my problem anymore.’ And I’ve kind of felt that way ever since. I devoted so much time to the damage of other aspects of my life. The concentrated, fixated, focusing on that — it’s good now to not have that.”
Of the current late-night scene, Letterman said, “I’m happy for the guys — the men and the women — there should be more women. And I don’t know why they didn’t give my show to a woman. That would have been fine.”
There was footage of Letterman attending the Indianapolis 500 (he’s a race team owner) and strolling the streets of Indianapolis, pointing out his boyhood home to Brokaw. It was all genial, and it was all rigidly staged and controlled, like every interview Letterman ever granted. (I know, having conducted one myself.) Watching Letterman, you certainly believed he doesn’t care anymore about being a TV personality — or, in his contemptuous phrase, “TV boy.” He seems well settled into retirement. He was great, and he is probably correct that we should just leave him alone now.