May 15, 1995 in Features

Letterman In London For Ratings Boost, He Hopes

Frazier Moore Associated Press
 

Here’s the latest dish on David Letterman, from his very own lips:

“I ruined the Academy Awards show,” he concedes. “They’re not going to have it next year. From now on, the winners will be notified by mail.”

Since mother Dorothy became an instant TV star, “She’s impossible,” he sighs. “She won’t even take my calls! It’s just a nightmare.”

And, happily preparing to take his show to London, he fondly recalls, “I was the ambassador to Great Britain during the Kennedy-Johnson years.”

Strictly speaking, none of these things is true.

Oh, except the part about “Late Show with David Letterman” originating from London, tonight through Friday on CBS.

Letterman will pick-a-dilly with “Late Show” blokes Mujibur and Sirajul, Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra - and Dave’s mom, whose reports from the 1994 Winter Olympics were a viewer sensation. She “made me very proud,” said her son during a recent interview from his office above Manhattan’s Ed Sullivan Theater.

For months, “Late Show” has been readying for what will be the first Yank late-night talk show to air from London since Jack Paar did it 35 years ago.

“We’ve been over there about three weeks in one form or another, pre-taping comedy pieces,” Letterman reported.

“One day we spent about 12 hours traveling all over London with Zsa Zsa Gabor, eating as much peculiar English food as we could find. It was all great - well, except the eel that was served in kind of a tepid, viscous green goo. MAN!”

Since his apocryphal diplomatic posting, Letterman has visited Great Britain a number of times, he said, and loves it. But this week he isn’t popping over the pond just for a giggle.

Among other things, this showcase is a way to wow viewers just seven weeks after his less-than-award-worthy night hosting the Oscar telecast.

“It wasn’t my best effort,” he noted. “It was flawed. But would I do it again if they were silly enough to ask me again? In a second.”

Traveling to London should also be good for a ratings boost during the important May sweep period.

For the season to date, “Late Show” remains comfortably ahead of NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in TV households, but only one-tenth point in front of ABC’s “Nightline,” which is thriving as viewers flock to its coverage of such stories as the O.J. Simpson trial and the Oklahoma City bombing.

This is altogether different from last season, when “Late Show’s” dominion seemed unshakable.

“We’re clearly going through turbulence,” said Letterman. “But it’s our problem. Undeniably, the gap has closed between us and ‘The Tonight Show,’ but who has made the move? WE have made the move.” He laughed ruefully. “Unfortunately, it’s been down.”


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