YMMV / David Letterman

  • Channel Hop/Executive Meddling: Pissed that NBC execs picked Jay Leno over him to host Tonight, Letterman took his show to CBS, where he had to make a few changes for the 11:30 slot that seemed minor at first but ultimately ended his peak until NBC's Jay-vs-Conan meltdown in 2009.
    • Carson himself never forgave NBC for picking Leno over Letterman, as he always thought that Letterman was the best choice to succeed him. As such, whenever Carson got an idea for a joke while in his retirement, he would send them to Letterman instead of Leno. And when Carson himself showed up on-air, the applause was deafening. Both men were clearly overwhelmed by it.
  • Colbert Bump: Inverted when Jay Leno permanently took the lead over Letterman in the ratings after his 1995 interview with prostitute-solicitor Hugh Grant. This came in the wake of Letterman's disastrous stint as host of the Academy Awards that year, where his style of humor clashed horribly with the tone of that event.
    • Many musical performers got their first mainstream exposure on Letterman's shows, with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish probably being the ones who got the biggest boosts from their appearances.
  • Critical Dissonance: The David Letterman Show, his 1980 morning show, got good reviews (and eventually won an Emmy) but failed to attract an audience and was canceled after four months. Not only that, but three good game shows- the newbie Chain Reaction, the second run of High Rollers, and the venerable Hollywood Squares all got the axe to make room for him.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: Letterman was a huge supporter of Conan O'Brien and, despite having acrimoniously left NBC, did everything he could to help Conan succeed as the host of Late Night. He would even send over the Late Show's reserve audience to fill the seats in the early days when Conan was trying to find his footing and was so unpopular that no one would even accept a free ticket.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Paul and the CBS Orchestra playing LL Cool J's "Hey Lover" as entrance music for supermodel Elle MacPherson.note 
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: When Margaret Ray committed suicide in 1998, Dave's older jokes about "that woman who keeps breaking into my house" turned into this.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the wake of Stephen Colbert being announced as Letterman's replacement, Colbert couldn't help but point out, he had applied to work for Letterman a couple times before.
    • Letterman's 1991 guest appearance with Johnny Carson after NBC announced that Jay Leno was taking over The Tonight Show. While Carson's "how pissed off are you?" is legendary, the conversation is full of statements that would take on some major irony in later years. Of special note is Dave scoffing at the idea that he would still be hosting a late night show in 20 years, and mentioning that it would have hurt more if NBC had given him the show then changed their minds (which is more or less what ended up happening to Conan O'Brien).
    • In 1977, Dave hosted a game show pilot called The Riddlers, created by Bob Stewart. Three years later, Stewart's Chain Reaction got canned for Dave's morning talk show.
  • Seasonal Rot: Dave was on broadcast TV for over 30 years, so this is bound to be the case. The Broken Base comes from just where this started. Some would say that it came after moving from Late Night to an earlier timeslot on CBS. Some think that the first few years of The Late Show were still good, but the decline started at some point in the mid-to-late 1990s (after his stint as Oscar host, when Jay Leno overtook him in the ratings). And others would claim that it set hold of him in the 2000s, by which point Dave was much older than the majority of his late night peers. All that said, every so often, Dave would still have his standout moments, such as the infamous Joaquin Phoenix interview or the mileage he got from the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien controversy.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Letterman is undoubtedly the most influential figure in American comedy over the last three decades, and as this article points out, he pioneered a lot of the ideas and attitudes that now saturate the Web. But because his influence is everywhere (not to mention Seasonal Rot) he seems really passe these days. His early NBC shows come off a bit dry and awkward, and his peak period (the last few years at NBC and the first few at CBS) isn't easily available (though there's a fair amount of varying-quality YouTube video).