I’ve said it here before. But I don’t understand why so many critics think that every TV show that premieres on an outlier outlet such as Amazon or Netflix has to reinvent the wheel. What’s wrong with plain old quality television? Based on its debut episode, I think that is just what is offered by David Letterman’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”
The introductory hour — filmed in front of a live audience at New York City College — opens with Letterman making a few light jokes and then introducing his (apparently) surprise guest: POTUS # 44, Barack Obama. From there, the duo go into a far-ranging, yet seemingly intimate conversation. That conversation is frequently intercut with a filmed segment wherein Letterman walks across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with civil-rights hero and Congressman John Lewis, talking to Lewis about Lewis’ 1965 walk across that bridge, when he and other protestors were beaten by police officers.
After all of his decades of on-air neurosis and irony, it’s nice to see Letterman loosened up and actually enjoying some conversation. Back in Letterman’s salad days on CBS, more than one critic noted that Letterman not only had an edge, he was the edge. Probably those same critics are now complaining about Letterman’s newly-found laidback-ness.
Too bad. I enjoyed this breezy conversation between two members of an obvious mutual admiration society. The worst you could say about Letterman here is that he is perhaps a tad fawning (as opposed to “The Tonight Show’s” Jimmy Fallon?) — but if you’re going to genuflect to someone, you could do a lot worse than Barack Obama.
As for Letterman’s civil-rights lesson, I’m sorry to say that its message remains all too relevant, particularly in light of the current White House Administration. So it certainly doesn’t hurt to be reminded yet again how blacks continue to live more poorly than whites in the U.S., not because of race but because of long-inherent policies.
With an upcoming guest list that includes George Clooney and Tina Fey, it’s likely that future episodes of “My Next Guest” will have a much lighter social agenda than its premiere episode. Hopefully, the series will remain just as captivating.