So, David Letterman will stay at CBS at least until the fall of 2010.
This is great but not particularly surprising news. Letterman is still the best late-night host on TV, and at its worst his "Late Show" is better than Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" is at its best.
Yes, Leno gets better ratings. But we're talking quality here, not quantity.
The reason Letterman's contract extension comes as no big surprise is because of what the future holds for the host of "Tonight." Leno steps down in 2009 when he hands the reins to Conan O'Brien, so Letterman will outlast Leno by at least a year.
Letterman, of course, didn't mention Leno when the announcement of the new contract was made. In typical Letterman fashion, the statement simply said he is "thrilled to be continuing on at CBS" because, "At my age, you really don't want to have to learn a new commute."
But it's hard not to think he had Leno's departure in mind. Sure, it's been 15 years, but Letterman hasn't forgotten how Leno and his manager shoved Johnny Carson aside and maneuvered Leno into the seat that Letterman and Carson both assumed would go to Letterman.
TERMS OF LETTERMAN'S deal were not announced, but it's expected that he's getting a raise from the measly $31.5 million a year he currently makes.
WILL LENO RETIRE? It's still an open question, apparently. Reports continue to circulate that, having been forced to agree to step down in 2009 by NBC (which feared losing Conan O'Brien), workaholic Leno has been rethinking that decision.
BY THE TIME his contract with CBS expires in 2010, Letterman will be within striking distance of surpassing Johnny Carson's longevity as a late-night host.
Carson hosted "The Tonight Show" for 29 years. Letterman will have hosted the "Late Show" for 17 years. Add to that the 11 years he hosted "Late Night" on NBC, and he'll only be about a year behind his idol/mentor.
Maybe Letterman will want to stick around past 2010 in order to set the record. Or maybe he'd rather leave Carson as the all-time king of late-night television.
BY THE WAY, when Leno retires in 2009 (assuming he does), he will have hosted "Tonight" for 17 years.
Jack Paar hosted it for five years; Steve Allen for four.
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