On Netflix show, a rusty Letterman quizzes Obama, and it's pretty tiresome

Esequiel Farfan
Enero 13, 2018

My dream of an Obama talk show has resurfaced with the release, on Friday morning, of the first episode of David Letterman's six-part Netflix series, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction". If there's a bold idea with My Next Guest, it's to be as un-bold as possible. "That was a pretty good line". The topic of Letterman's termination was once again broached after Dave introduced Obama. And for the first of a series of standalone encounters - Malala Yousafzai and George Clooney are among those still to come - he'd bagged Barack Obama, in his first broadcast interview since leaving the White House. Letterman could look annoyed, embarrassed, aggressively bored in some of his Late Show interviews. You could imagine a different hour passed between the two men, in which Obama was the host and Letterman the guest. There are countless talk shows on TV, but nearly none providing the depth and length of conversation Letterman's new show provides.

Reflecting on his own presidency, Obama said that in retrospect he wished he hadn't been so quick to let the constraints of the office change how he interacted with the public - an observation that might suggest he had a degree of envy that Trump has not followed suit. Letterman told Obama at one point that he is the only president who he has ever truly respected.

REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstFormer U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his remarks in a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China September 5, 2016. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will air a live episode directly after President Trump's State of the Union speech on January 30. Back in 2014, he announced he was (voluntarily) retiring from hosting the Late Show.

The nine-word title of this one-hour show is "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman". "These are people that I admire". Letterman seems sincerely if belatedly in awe of what happened there.

Three years after Letterman handed the Late Show franchise keys to Stephen Colbert, the CBS late night show has delivered impeccable ratings. The Letterman/Lewis conversation was more graceful, cutting between shots of Lewis and Letterman today with Lewis on the march with Martin Luther King a half-century ago. The result is a more reflective, if a little blander, host.

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Longtime Letterman fans were relieved to see him back on their television screens after almost being off the air for three years.

"Letterman was never known for his interrogatory skills anyway-the occasional delightful curveball notwithstanding-and nothing he does here is going to reverse that impression", Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz wrote.

You could appreciate the irony: A recent President explaining show business to a late night legend. Subsequent episodes will appear monthly in what could turn out to be the first - or only - season of the hourlong show.

And while he clearly tries to keep the focus on Obama (and Clooney as well), it's nearly more interesting to see Letterman's own continued change. Letterman's new show is something deeper, more valuable.

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