The TV Column: Letterman ‘grateful’ for Kennedy Center Honors

September 12, 2012

David Letterman’s CBS show was dark the day that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the chosen ones for this year’s Kennedy Center Honors. But the host of the late-night show released a statement Wednesday saying: “This is something wonderful for my family, my co-workers and myself. I believe recognition at this prestigious level confirms my belief that there has been a mix-up. I am still grateful to be included.”

Letterman’s Worldwide Pants confirms that the notoriously reclusive figure plans to show up for the fete, at which he will not have to be onstage or speak. But in keeping with the three-decades-old franchise’s odd-ish format, he will sit in the mezzanine with the president of the United States and the first lady, draped in the traditional looks-good-on-no-outfit, rainbow-ribboned medal, while others pay him tribute from the stage — including, presumably, Craig Ferguson, host of the other CBS late-night show produced by Worldwide Pants.

A few months ago, Letterman was a no-show at the TV Critics Association Awards. But then, so was practically everyone, except the cast of “Homeland” and emcee Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad.” The TCA bestowed on Letterman its Career Achievement Award.

“I wish I could be with you tonight in Los Angeles, and I would be, but those of you who are friends . . . know tonight is the night I eat glass,” Letterman said in a taped acceptance speech. He instead sent a guy to the TCA Awards who looked like him to pick up his trophy.

Letterman was picked to be feted by the Kennedy Center because he — like his fellow honorees, actor Dustin Hoffman, members of the band Led Zeppelin, blues great Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova — has “contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

“David Letterman is one of the most influential personalities in the history of television, entertaining an entire generation of late-night viewers with his unconventional wit and charm,” Rubenstein added.

NBC’s big night

The second night of the first fall season of NBC’s ‘The Voice” did just fine. Matthew Perry’s “Go On” did fine, too. About 7 million people are interested in the controversial “The New Normal.” That’s all good news for the struggling network.

On Tuesday, “The Voice’s” audience — 11.3 million viewers — was down about 1 million from the previous night’s fall kickoff, but it was still an audience that every broadcast network would like.

That said, the show clearly is not taking the next step to “phenom” status. It might, in fact, have taken a small step back among young viewers — NBC’s currency in ad sales — for the sake of becoming a player on the fall prime-time slate. Previously, “The Voice” has aired on NBC in the spring and over the summer.

Are we the only ones fighting hard to shake that nagging feeling that “The Voice,” “The X Factor” and “American Idol” are all becoming the same show?

Following “The Voice,” “Go On” averaged nearly 10 million viewers, retaining 85 percent of its lead-in; anything more than 80 percent is considered good. It’s also a very respectable return on the 16 million who’d watched the comedy’s pilot episode at about 11 one night, after NBC’s broadcast of the London Summer Games.

At 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, NBC aired another episode of “The New Normal,” which scored virtually the same audience size that the first episode did Monday. It appears there are 7 million people interested in this controversial Ryan Murphy comedy.

At 10 p.m., “Parenthood” returned to continue its slow slide into oblivion. This time, its season launch attracted 5.5 million viewers — its smallest opening yet.

Last season, the much-DVR’d drama launched with more than 6 million tuned in. Back in March of ’10, NBC unveiled the TV-ization of the hit flick with more than 8 mill watching.

Sudeikis back to ‘SNL’

“Saturday Night Live” has its Mitt Romney and its Joe Biden for election season: Jason Sudeikis will be back through January, NBC confirmed Wednesday.

And the show will have a new President Obama when it returns this weekend, with Seth MacFarlane hosting.

For the past few months, Sudeikis — who handles the roles of GOP presidential nominee Romney and Vice President Biden on the late-night show — told anyone who would listen that he wasn’t sure he would be returning. The show already had lost vets Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg in recent months, along with Abby Elliott.

“SNL” launches its 38th season Saturday. The first of the show’s prime-time election specials is slated for next Thursday.

NBC announced earlier this week that “SNL” would add to its cast three new Second City alums.

Meanwhile, Jay Pharoah will play President Obama during the rest of the election cycle. Pharoah inherits the role from Fred Armisen, who since 2008 has drawn the chagrin of some who thought the show should have cast a black comic as Obama.

Pharoah — an “SNL” regular since 2010 — has been working on his Obama impression over the summer and is now ready, “SNL” exec producer Lorne Michaels told the New York Times on Wednesday.

Beck back to TV

Glenn Beck has returned to TV: Dish Network announced Wednesday that it would begin carrying the conservative radio talk show host’s online network, the Blaze, that very afternoon.

The satellite TV provider said it’s adding the Blaze, which launched a year ago as GBTV, to boost its lineup of news and commentary channels heading toward the presidential election.

Beck’s channel was scheduled to launch on Dish on Wednesday.

“After being phenomenally successful with his online streaming network, we’re pleased to host Glenn Beck’s return to . . . TV, especially during this exciting and important political season,” Joseph Clayton, Dish chief executive and president, said Wednesday in a statement.

Beck, you’ll recall, started as a regular on CNN’s HLN in 2006, then migrated to Fox News Channel in ’08. He left FNC in June of 2011 after losing audience and advertisers owing to his increasingly incendiary style. On his final FNC show, he told viewers: “This show has become a movement. It’s not a TV show, and that’s why it doesn’t belong on television anymore.”

The Blaze claims more than 300,000 subscribers; Englewood, Colo.-based Dish has about 14 million subscribers.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.
com/tvblog
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