David Letterman, the longtime host of CBS's "Late Show," has announced his retirement, reportedly effective next year.
The story, first reported by R.E.M.'s Mike Mills (a performer on tonight's broadcast) and confirmed by CNN's Brian Stelter, puts the final capper on what is perhaps Letterman's most notorious trait: his longtime rivalry with NBC's Jay Leno, who left "The Tonight Show" earlier this year. Leno famously beat Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson at "Tonight," paving the way for Letterman to build a late-night franchise at CBS, his home since 1993.
Letterman began his national broadcast career as the inaugural host of "Late Night," the NBC show at which he was succeeded by Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and, most recently, Seth Meyers. There and at CBS, he was well-known and -regarded for irony, biting interviews, and stunts like "Stupid Pet Tricks" and destroying things.
The race to succeed Letterman begins; unlike at NBC, which moved out Leno twice in order to replace him with O'Brien and with Fallon, there's no transparent succession plan at CBS. Craig Ferguson's "Late Late Show" airs after Letterman's program but Ferguson has no guarantee of moving on to the 11:35 spot. No matter who replaces Letterman, a new generation will truly have established itself, with the younger and more cheerful Fallon at NBC and the insurgent bro-esque Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. This will be fun to watch -- as will the march towards retirement from a fellow whose congenital crankiness seemed as though it'd always be on our sets.