Although David Letterman had previously hinted that he couldn’t see sticking around past 2013, his newly signed CBS deal will keep him squarely pinned behind his desk for at least two more years, extending his overall talk show tenure to 32 years, and pushing the soon-to-be-65-year-old well past Johnny Carson’s record to make him far and away late-night TV’s longest-serving host. And what’s more, Letterman’s new contract still contains no mention of a sign-off date, leaving his exit an open-ended question that can only be answered by Letterman himself and/or medical science.
But since that remains an inevitability, CBS seems to be making an even bigger overture toward potentially grooming Craig Ferguson as Letterman’s eventual successor: The network’s new deal with the Late Late Show host similarly keeps him in place right after Letterman for the next two years, while also giving CBS a co-producer’s stake in his show—a part ownership which they will soon take advantage of by giving Ferguson a larger, better-lit studio to play in. This, of course, will take away some of Ferguson’s go-to jokes about his crappy accommodations, but it also suggests the network is giving him the chance to play to a bigger audience, proving himself as the Late Show heir by not collapsing in a fetal position amid all that scary open space.
Of course, there’s still the question of whether Late Show will even be worth inheriting, as both Letterman’s and Jay Leno’s shows continue to fall well behind The Daily Show and The Colbert Report among adults 18 to 49. But that’s for the far-off, future generations of two years from now to sort out. And who knows what form of entertainment will be most pleasing to the humorless cyborg people of 2014, besides Jay Leno's "Headlines"?