LA Times - David Letterman Article

Traveling can be overrated. Late Show with David Letterman resumed taping in New York on Monday after a highly publicized week's worth of allegedly tinselly telecasts from CBS in Los Angeles. Letterman's first guest Monday: Fox's "Melrose Place" star Heather Locklear. Of Los Angeles.

Normally beamed to the United States from Burbank, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is temporarily coming from NBC in
Manhattan, spending this week supposedly soaking up that famous New York "edge." Leno's first sit-down guest Monday was Mike Myers of Saturday Night Live, who immediately began spinning anecdotes about being with Sylvester Stallone in Hawaii. The Nielsens made them do it. Letterman and Leno became bicoastal this month because of the May ratings sweeps, hoping to inflate their respective audiences merely through changes of locale.

The trappings of travel worked for Letterman's Late Show, which last week extended its lead over Leno's Tonight Show, swelling its Nielsens in the crucial Los Angeles market and earning its fourth highest national ratings since its inception. And Leno's audience Monday was 13% larger than usual in the 31 cities for which overnight ratings were available -- including a 69% jump in New York.

Whatever the ratings, such relocations are usually noisier than substantive, rarely yielding the level of change promised by their build-up. In Letterman's case, his Los Angeles quickie became a media-bloated whale nourished by thunderous promotion that sucked in just about everyone. Credit that for his higher audience numbers, not the content of his Los Angeles segments, which, by his standards (his show is just about always funny), were more or less routine -- the exception being a couple of unbilled cameos by Johnny Carson.

No Rodney G. King sitting in with Paul Shaffer on drums. No Ten Best List read by the jailed Menendez brothers. All in all, it was just another week of Letterman. Worth watching, but not distinctive. Nearly everything he did in Los Angeles he could have done in New York; even his signature on-location whimsy was not especially distinguishing.

His guest list is generally not dependent on which coast celebrities live. So what's the big deal? You turn on Letterman and there he is in Los Angeles with Billy Crystal, for example, as if Crystal would never think of jetting to New York to promote his latest movie. As if Los Angeles celebrities don't fly to New York and their New York counterparts to Los Angeles.

On TV, everything blurs. One of Letterman's guests in New York Monday was book-promoting, movie-promoting, tour-promoting country singer Travis Tritt, who Tuesday morning was interviewed in Los Angeles via satellite by Sam Rubin on
KTLA-TV Channel 5's morning news. Scheduled to appear with Leno this week, meanwhile, was radio talk-show host/New York gubernatorial candidate Howard Stern (wasn't he just in LA?), who would go to Rwanda if he had something of his own to advertise.

On Monday, Leno wove a little New York ("You come here, you walk around, you get that New York attitude...") into his
otherwise typical, generally funny monologue. Suddenly, there was Jack Paar, co-host of The Tonight Show from 1957-62, when it originated in New York. There was something symbolic here:

Letterman got Carson, Leno got Paar, who cracked some terrible crotch jokes before mercifully departing while the studio
audience turned on the applause as if it actually knew who he was.

Later there was a non-speaking cameo by syndicated talk-show host Phil Donahue, who hadn't been seen on television since, well, earlier that day. But the New York attitude really hit the fan when Myers was followed by the now sedate and stiff-upper-lippy Spike Lee, on the talk-show circuit promoting his new movie, "Crooklyn," and later by the even more laid-back singer James Taylor. The show also ran some pre-taped New York location pieces, with Leno and that human brick, bandleader Branford Marsalis, taking a scenic tour of the city ("Then it was off to the Empire State Building...")

What's it like being in New York? "Really exciting," Leno told Regis Philbin on "Live" Tuesday, as if he were just in from Peoria. Come to think of it, his show did have that Peoria edge.
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May 18th 1994
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