TV Article

'Letter' Carriers

Dave's still sick, so we rate the ''Letterman'' hosts. The good, the bad, the mediocre -- Josh Wolk grades the Top 10 (plus two) pretenders to the ''Late Show'' throne

Bonnie Hunt, Carson Daly | THE HUNT CONTINUES With Letterman still sick, Bonnie is just one of many to sit in his chair
THE HUNT CONTINUES With Letterman still sick, Bonnie is just one of many to sit in his chair

Dave's still sick, so we rate the ''Letterman'' hosts

David Letterman is still suffering from shingles, and CBS doesn't know when he'll return to his hosting duties at the Ed Sullivan Theater. His eclectic guest hosts may have looked odd behind the big man's desk, yet each seemed eerily reminiscent of another desk jockey...with a little something extra. Here we take a look at his first 12 subs, grading who has kept Dave's seat warm...and who has kept it very, very cold.

BONNIE HUNT (March 19)
Her quick-witted, naughty pokes at Carson Daly were offset by her sunny smile and penchant for calling everyone ''honey'' and ''dear.'' Welcome to the Naughty Schoolmarm Hour.
HOSTS LIKE: Her ''Life With Bonnie'' character without the annoying sitcom family
GRADE: A

VINCE VAUGHN (March 11)
Armed with a quick wit and vocab of hipster ''Swingers'' lingo (''fly[ing] the desk tonight''), Vaughn deftly flirted with (while he teased) Rosie Perez and Geri Halliwell.
HOSTS LIKE: Craig Kilborn, if he were funny
GRADE: A

ELVIS COSTELLO (March 12)
After opening with an overlong song parody, the formerly angry rocker proved a dryly witty and insightful interviewer.
HOSTS LIKE: Dick Cavett with a whammy bar
GRADE: A-

REGIS PHILBIN (Feb. 28)
The power of Reege only grows when alone! He bounded out with a song, bantered with Biff Henderson, and sent out some jabs to Kathie Lee and Kelly.
HOSTS LIKE: Regis Philbin, without a babysitter
GRADE: B+

TOM DREESEN (March 18)
Sinatra's former opening act was genial and likable, if still living in the past. What's with the jokes about a possible baseball strike and Old Dirty Bastard's name? Guest Frank Gorshin did nothing to make the hour seem contemporary.
HOSTS LIKE: Dean Martin without the highball
GRADE: B

BRAD GARRETT (March 17)
Six foot nine inches of shtick. The ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' star stuck it to Paul's loud suit, made gay jokes at Cuba ''Boat Trip'' Gooding Jr.'s expense, and told a ''hit-in-the-groin'' story, complete with visuals.
HOSTS LIKE: Joan Rivers on Joey Bishop's shoulders
GRADE: B

PAUL SHAFFER (March 24)
Twenty years of observing Letterman has paid off: The ''Late Show'' bandleader was a smooth interviewer who hit all the talk-show beats but added a tongue-in-cheek ''but I kid'' Vegas smarm.
HOSTS LIKE: A hipper, more self-aware Tom Dreesen.
GRADE: B

BILL COSBY (March 25)
After a rambling ''my darn kids!'' monologue that was like a Cosby Mad Lib, he rallied with a Bachelor interview that initially seemed clueless but revealed itself to be a sly jab at reality TV. His dirty-old-man chat with Sofia Vergara, however, was just clueless.
HOSTS LIKE: Joe Franklin on Viagra
GRADE: B-

WHOOPI GOLDBERG (March 10)
After some obvious ''Bush'' double-entendres, she overempathetically cooed over guest Jessica Lange's political activism and general acting bravado.
HOSTS LIKE: Oprah Winfrey, with Bruce Vilanch on retainer
GRADE: B-

MEGAN MULLALLY (March 14)
After bawdy monologue jokes, she kibitzed with best friend 4-eva Molly Shannon about their weddings, and begged fashion tips from Isaac Mizrahi.
HOSTS LIKE: Take the entire couch from ''The View'' and blend well
GRADE: B-

BRUCE WILLIS (Feb. 26)
Willis was endearingly nervous, surreally so when talking about Saddam with Dan Rather. He seemed more in his element when lecherously eyeing Carmen Electra's Playboy layout.
HOSTS LIKE: Bill Maher in need of Paxil
GRADE: B-

WILL FERRELL (March 13)
The ''Old School'' star's quirky detachment and non sequiturs made interviewee Crispin Glover look like the well-balanced one of the conversation.
HOSTS LIKE: Space Ghost on Xanax
GRADE: C

JOHN McENROE (Feb. 27)
He browbeat Michael Imperioli, insulted the guesting French chef, and, flubbed jokes be damned, never seemed to doubt his own emceeing talents.
HOSTS LIKE: Bill O'Reilly with a sweatband
GRADE: D+

Originally posted Mar 25, 2003
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