Netflix’s My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction proves the world nonetheless wants David Letterman
When David Letterman left the Late Present in 2015, it felt like a generational altering of the guard. After over three a long time as a late-night host, the comic was stepping away, letting Stephen Colbert reinvent the present whereas Letterman loved the free time to do, nicely, nothing — aside from develop a extremely critical beard. So when Netflix introduced final 12 months that he can be popping out of retirement to host a chat present, it raised a few questions. What may Letterman do outdoors the restrictions of community tv that he hadn’t already finished, and would a David Letterman sequence nonetheless appear related provided that the late-night world has moved on?
The primary episode of the present, My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction With David Letterman, is out now, that includes President Barack Obama. Because it seems, there’s fairly a number of issues that Letterman is ready to do outdoors the bounds of community TV. And when in comparison with the quick-turnaround, snarky tone that permeates a lot late-night materials right this moment, Letterman’s honesty and diploma of emotional introspection don’t simply make him nonetheless related; they make him completely important.
Maybe the obvious means that My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction breaks from Letterman’s different reveals is that it’s not a each day, and even weekly, speak present in the best way that audiences are used to desirous about them. It’s a month-to-month program, with Netflix giving the comic the go-ahead to create six, one-hour episodes that can be launched between now and June 2018. The lineup begins huge with the previous president, and continues from there: George Clooney, Jay Z, Tina Fey, Howard Stern, and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
Judging by the Obama episode, the format is totally different, too: there’s no host desk or dwell band (one thing Obama himself notes early on within the first episode). There’s only a pair of chairs and dialog, with the present periodically reducing to an on-location section — on this case, Letterman becoming a member of Congressman (and civil rights hero) John Lewis for a stroll throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the place Lewis was overwhelmed by cops in 1965 whereas participating in a civil rights march.
That is Letterman as a conversationalist first, and a comic second
The subject material alone distances itself from the extra irreverent stretches of Letterman’s profession. My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction is humorous, however it’s Letterman — replete along with his now trademark beard — utilizing his expertise as a conversationalist first, and a comic second. The result’s a considerate, sobering dialogue with Obama that ranges from household anecdotes (Obama describes the way it took him a half hour to place collectively a lamp for his daughter Malia when she went to varsity), to the best way that algorithmically pushed social media outcomes are hampering folks’s talents to know views outdoors their very own, with really troubling penalties for the American political system.
There’s a high quality line to stroll with interviews like this, and in speak present situations politicians often resort to both simple speaking factors or bland anecdotes that make them appear as relatable as attainable. There’s a little bit of that in play, right here — at one level Obama begins speaking about embarrassing his daughters whereas dancing along with his “dad strikes” — however Letterman is ready to hold the dialog feeling contemporary, related, and genuinely insightful.
A part of that’s merely 33 years of expertise; Letterman has at all times been an easy interviewer, capable of information his friends regardless of how agreeable or confrontational they could resolve to be. However free of the promotional cycle merry-go-round that drives most late-night tv, the Netflix present permits the host to dig in and sort out issues from a extra thought-out, thematic perspective. The interview with Obama is clearly in regards to the former president’s return to regular life, and his reflections on this second in our political historical past. However the episode can be in regards to the broader context of what Obama meant, and the way he got here to win the presidency within the first place.
Photograph by Joe Pugliese / Netflix
Letterman’s segments with Lewis spotlight the battle of the civil rights motion, and the way that struggle was about shifting one step nearer to a world the place a black man might be president of the US within the first place. “We are going to redeem the soul of America,” Lewis says when Letterman asks him in regards to the injury he feels the Trump administration is doing to the nation, and it’s arduous to think about any of Letterman’s earlier reveals having the ability to ship the second with such weight and earnest resolve.
There’s a way of self-reflection, as if Letterman is reassessing his personal life and success
It’s additionally on account of Letterman himself. Except for the anticipated self-deprecating jokes, there’s a way of true self-reflection that runs by way of My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction. Maybe it’s the subject material of the Obama episode, or the interview with Lewis, however there’s a delicate throughline that’s hinted at a number of instances: the concept that after Letterman took time without work to journey and spend time along with his household, he’s now reassessing what he has achieved in his life. And, maybe, that he feels he may have finished extra.
“Mr. President, that is what I’m battling at this level in my life. I’ve been nothing however fortunate,” he says within the present’s last moments. A month after Lewis confronted down the incident now often known as Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Letterman explains, he and his buddies had been making an attempt to get on a cruise ship so they may buy alcohol with out worrying in regards to the native age restrict. “Why wasn’t I in Alabama?” he asks, seemingly on the verge of tears. “Why was I not conscious? I’ve been nothing however fortunate.”
It’s a robust second, much more so as a result of it’s coming from an individual often known as one of the acerbic wits in late-night historical past. It’s additionally inconceivable to think about this type of revelation — and even this present — being welcomed on a broadcast community the place scores come at a premium. In that world, broad attraction is vital, which has the unlucky facet impact of making disposable reveals that by no means push too arduous or ask that a lot of the viewer. However with Netflix, it seems that Letterman has found a platform that drops lots of these pressures.
It’s not a present that can be simply distilled down into disposable YouTube clips, although there are some nice exchanges. And it’s not a program that ought to be considered with consideration turned midway elsewhere. It’s considerate, humorous, and shifting, however greater than anything, it’s proof that David Letterman nonetheless has one thing to say.
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