Sunday, April 6, 2014

"The Simpsons" Say So Long to Dave

So Long, Dave

The Simpsons David Letterman
David Letterman.
The Simpsons say farewell to Dave Letterman. David Letterman announced his retirement this week, to take place in 2015, and "The Simpsons" rushed to offer a proper tribute. While it may not seem all that big a deal when you read this in, like, 2017 or something, "The Simpsons" under creator Matt Groening got this video out and posted on Youtube in less than 24 hours. It is highly unlikely that Dave told "The Simpsons" people about his decision in advance when Dave said that he only told the network head, Leslie Moonves, right before he went on air.

That is a massively quick turnaround for a network animation product and shows the respect that the show's staff has for Dave, who has been a fixture on network television for over thirty years. No dawdling, they heard the news, dropped everything, and made sure that this was up before the newness wore off. Believe me, they didn't have to lift a finger, and nobody would have even thought about it. It's not like "The Late Show" was their lead-in or anything. They owed Letterman nothing.

But they did.

That's class.

Just to put this into perspective, one of Dave's guests during his first season or two was the legendary Desi Arnaz - you know, from "I Love Lucy" back in the '50s. It was one of Desi's final appearances, and he sang "Cuban Pete," one of his signature songs. I'm showing off here - I actually remember watching that show the night that it aired in early 1983 - but that is a long time to be one of the titans of late-night television, right up there with Johnny Carson himself. Of course, "The Simpsons" go back almost as far, also to the '80s, so these guys have been fixtures on Fox together all those years, and it is kind of cool that they made a point of marking this end of the road together.

The Simpsons David Letterman
The Simpsons say goodbye to David Letterman.
While some animated series have quick turnarounds - notably "South Park" - "The Simpsons isn't one of them. They take months of preparation in advance of each episode. It is quite likely that the staff of "The Simpsons" thought about this happening one day, knew they wanted to honor the moment, and had this in the can, ready to go, for whenever it happened. Which, when you think about it, is even more of a mark of respect than simply rushing something out in the heat of the moment.

Notice anything different about how the departure of Jay Leno was handled recently? It pays to be on a network that has people running other shows that care about other stars on the network. Let's leave it at that.

The music that accompanies the clip is Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," a quintessentially New York City song that fits Dave, who always broadcast from the Ed Sullivan theater in the City, perfectly. They also manage to show Paul Shaffer, Dave's longtime bandleader, as he plays a quick rendition of "The Simpsons" theme song to wind things up - suggesting that this is marking the spot as a milestone of "The Simpsons" as well.

As the clip says, "We'll miss you, Dave."


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