New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater is getting rather chilly these days, even for notorious cryophile David Letterman. Unfortunately, the problem can’t be fixed by simply cranking up the thermostat. For one thing, the show’s ratings, which had already been lagging behind NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and ABC’s Nightline for some time, may get even worse now that ABC has added the highly touted Politically Incorrect to its post-Nightline slot (in its first two nights Incorrect appeared to be luring viewers away from Late Show). Also, Letterman’s interview style, which has always been arch, has gotten downright abrasive in the last few months — Cindy Crawford was visibly shaken by Letterman’s mockery during her October appearance — increasing the show’s mean-spirited rep. And perhaps most notably, the media-sensitive Letterman has become the butt of some wicked jokes, such as the icy but hysterically accurate parodies recently done by Saturday Night Live.
All of which may explain the growing rumors that Letterman may soon be departing for the sunnier climes of Southern California. According to a late-night TV insider, CBS is currently looking into the possibility of transplanting the show as early as this fall. (The network reportedly secured a Los Angeles studio for Letterman back in 1993, before the host decided to stick it out in Manhattan.) ”Letterman has to kick-start his show now,” says the insider. Officially, the network had no comment, but privately a top CBS exec flatly denies the move rumors, saying ”It’s completely untrue. People make stuff up all the time.” Letterman has no comment.
Whatever CBS eventually decides, there’s no denying that a change of scenery might very well be the creative and commercial jolt Late Show desperately needs. ”Dave has talent that just hasn’t come into play in the last year and a half because it doesn’t seem like he enjoys it anymore,” says the industry insider. ”Maybe it will be easier for him to compete if he’s in Los Angeles.”