David Letterman is coming back on Netflix.
David Letterman is returning to TV. And he’s just what the landscape needs.
Netflix announced on Tuesday that Letterman, who stepped down from CBS’ The Late Show in 2015 after more than three decades on the late-night circuit, will be returning to our screens with a six-episode series in 2018. The as-yet-untitled series will reject the traditional late-night format and some of Letterman’s most famous bits, such as “Stupid Pet Tricks” and his top 10 lists. Instead, the comedian will focus on interviews and field pieces away from the studio. And it’s a thrilling prospect for anyone who misses the compelling and often captivating in-depth interview on late-night TV.
In the current crop of late-night hosts, many are weak interviewers (like the too giddy Jimmy Fallon) or eschew a regular interview segment (like the monologue-focused Samantha Bee). The most exciting interviewer currently in the genre is actually Letterman’s CBS replacement, Stephen Colbert.
But no one excels when there’s someone on the couch quite like Letterman, who became a master at turning a chat with a celebrity or politician or anyone, really, into something far more fascinating. His interviews, first while hosting Late Night on NBC and then The Late Show on CBS, ranged from enlightening to contentious to bored (on his part). Many of them are stone-cold classics.
Cher once called him an “(expletive) hole” on-air during an interview that was more like a sparring match. He pressed Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan about their run-ins with the law and substance abuse. He told Bill O’Reilly, “you’re putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head.”
Letterman was often critiqued for being “too mean,” and indeed, some of his interactions with female stars over the years come off as aggressive when reviewed. But his signature was that he never let anyone get away with passing on a question or ignoring substantive issues. And when he pushed his guests, he got results no one else did. He continually questioned the role his show played in the promotional machine for Hollywood, and he wasn’t interested in fluff or flattery.
The comedian also brought his own gruff personality to the table, an effective foil against many of his guests. In his early days, he was…