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TV Review: ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ Final Show

After over 33 years in late night TV, David Letterman said goodbye as host of Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday. Letterman had hosted the show since 1993. Stephen Colbert will take over as host on Sept. 8. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“The final episode itself, frankly, was not surprisingly a low-key affair. After an open using Gerald Ford’s line that ‘Our long national nightmare is over,’ Letterman joked, appropriately, ‘It’s beginning to look like I’m not gonna get The Tonight Show.’”
—Brian Lowry, Variety

“So Wednesday night, his last as a TV host after three and a half decades, the man who introduced TV to a new kind of comedy show left us with … a comedy show. Letterman’s last Late Show was nostalgic but not maudlin, gracious but not mournful, valedictory but not a eulogy. Letterman’s last minutes behind the desk were as heavy on the laughs as on the thank-yous, an hour-plus of an entertainer being an entertainer and enjoying it. It was true to Dave, it was fun and it was terrific.”
—James Poniewozik, Time

“But Letterman was, to the end his, his own man. He didn't need Carson as a guide. He only needed his own example, about how to wrap an historic run with his dignity and worldview intact, while reminding viewers exactly why they had stayed with him all these years.”
—Verne Gay, Newsday

“As his farewell episode made plain, David Letterman is a unique talent. You can’t swing a cat in a comedy club, improv class, or writers’ room without hitting someone whose life was changed by Late Night or Late Show, but even the most avid Letterman acolyte couldn’t replicate the comic alchemy on display in tonight’s greatest-hits reels. Late Show’s past was represented by a montage of ‘Dave and kids’ segments and the classic Taco Bell drive-thru bit from 1996, concepts that were specially calibrated for Letterman’s skills and sensibility.”
—Erik Adams, A.V. Club

“At too many points the show felt like the last 10 years of The Late Show: uninspired and going through the motions.  And as a whole though, the 6,028th show was perfectly fine — some of the jokes landed and the clip montages were great, even if CBS did the same thing two weeks ago in a 90-minute Letterman special hosted by Ray Romano.”
—Chris Chase, USA Today (opens in new tab)

“His farewell was much better than the usual mawkish television send-off: He mixed favorite segments like his Top 10 list with clips of classic skits and a few restrained fillips of sincerity and humility. His final show was not at all like the Pharaonic and mushy last bow Johnny Carson took when he left The Tonight Show in 1992. As could be expected, it was a bracing antidote to the weepy extravaganza that ushered his rival Jay Leno into retirement last year.”
—Alessandra Stanley, New York Times