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‘Fawning’ Letterman-Obama Netflix interview gets roasted by negative reviews
Austen Hufford / CCL
Even television critics seem to want the former president out of the spotlight.
David Letterman’s new show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction premiered on Netflix on Friday, but despite bringing on former President Barack Obama as his first guest, Letterman’s show hasn’t been well-received by critics.
“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction”
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction is Letterman’s first major television appearance since leaving The Late Show in 2014. He is widely known for his long 33-year career, the longest in late night television, as a late night personality for both NBC’s Late Night and CBS’s Late Show.
A Netflix release describes the show as a “six-episode series [that] has Letterman combining two interests for which he is renowned: in-depth conversations with extraordinary people, and in-the-field segments expressing his curiosity and humor. In each hour-long episode, Letterman will conduct a long-form conversation with a singular guest — and will also explore topics on his own, away from the studio.”
Former President Obama, in one of the few interviews he gave since leaving office, was Letterman’s first guest. The other five guests will be George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey, and Howard Stern.
Many have waited in anticipation of the show’s first airing, saying that it has all the makings of great entertainment. However, reviews of the first episode were mixed, with a fairly large dose of disappointment.
The Boston Globe described Letterman’s first episode as follows:
It’s all pretty rote and familiar, and what’s worse is Letterman’s stage and interviewing manner, which is clearly rusty. He fawns over his guest more than he should, he makes awkward jokes about this new-fangled thing called Netflix, and he drives the conversation into a mutual children-appreciation session so that he can enthuse about his son and Obama can enthuse about his daughters.
Similarly, the Washington Post stated:
Unfortunately, Letterman’s new show for Netflix, a six-episode series called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction fails to deliver on its promise, falling flat in its Friday debut. Letterman, who retired so elegantly in 2015, seems only half-engaged here and far too much in the thrall of his first guest, who left office a year ago and has avoided the talk-show circuit until now.
To provide some context, at one point Letterman said:
Irrespective of the man or woman who holds the office, you have to respect the office of president. Without a question of a doubt, you are the first president I truly and fully respect.
One wonders how much he respects “the office” while President Donald Trump holds it, but Letterman’s obsequiousness only gets worse. Letterman later told Obama:
I read a book that you wrote, Dreams From My Father. It was such a—what an odyssey, your life. What an odyssey, your early life. How well-written and how dense each period of your life and—one of many things I was taken by was your relationship with your mother. Tell me about that relationship and how you feel now about it.
These are just two of several instances in which Letterman is clearly doing nothing more than gushing.
The other major criticism is simply that the show was bland. This may be in part because it was taped last fall, and certain topics seemed to clearly be out of bounds, including President Trump, who was never mentioned by name during the episode.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects, such the New Yorker, heaped undeserved praise on the show’s premiere. Similarly, the show received a 74 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 70/100 on Metacritic.
It must be said that good interviews are necessarily adversarial, even if they’re conducted with the greatest degree of civility. Constant adoration doesn’t do anything for the participants of the interview or the audience.
It is absurd that Letterman doesn’t already know this, given his career.
While there’s no way to know if Letterman’s show will be successful, the lack of enthusiasm it has created so far is indicative of one thing: Americans are fed up with self-righteous television personalities.
Time to move along, Letterman. Like Obama’s, his career is history.
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