Tuesday, June 16, 2015

(Top) 10 Things About David Letterman — Number Ten: Worldwide Pants!

A Little Counting Music, Please ...
Ten ... Nine ... Eight ... Seven ... Six ... Five ... Four ... Three ... Two ... One ... and Good Night

According to TV legend, Letterman formed his own production company as a means of protecting the material he created for The Late Show on CBS from being owned by the network.  Unfortunately, that's a bit of an exaggeration.  Pants had been around and co-producing Late Night with NBC before all the bad blood.  (It shared a 1991 Peabody Award with the network.)

Once known as "Space Age Meats," the administrative branch of Letterman's media presence took its more famous name from a Late Night bit NBC comically censored: "Guess What's in This Guy's *****."  To the Late Night staff's surprise, NBC censors bleeped the word pants, leading Letterman to work it into all manner of odd phrasings until the joke finally died of old age.  It enjoyed a long second life in the form of the odd phrases Late Show announcer Alan Kalter boomed over the production company logo at the end of Late Show episodes through the '90s and '00s.

Worldwide Pants became Letterman's incubator for talent.  Its alumni include innovative, one-season, comedian-driven sitcoms like The BuildingEd, and Welcome to New York and one show that managed to land at just the right time to become a long-running hit, Everybody Loves Raymond.

Letterman also used Pants to create a later-night offering for CBS to pit against NBC's retooled, Lettermanless Late Night with Conan O'Brien.  The Late Late Show started out with more serious late-night talk hosted by Letterman's NBC predecessor, Tom Snyder.  Over the years, it took many forms, eventually culminating in a decade-long run under Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson, who subverted and defied late-night expectations in much the same way Letterman had done 20 years earlier at NBC.

David Letterman was an one-man incubator for new talent above and beyond Worldwide Pants.

Late Night  introduced the world to Chris Elliott, a second-generation comedian who sharpened his ability to walk the line between endearing and menacing on Late Night.  Afterward, he turned his unique shtick into one of the fledgling Fox network's first original shows, Get a Life.  The whole early Fox line-up looked like it could have come from the Late Night writers' room, filled with smart, deconstructionist "sitcoms" (or were they spoofs of sitcoms?) like Get a Life, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and Married ... with Children.  You can see that throughline today in The Simpsons — and you can see Elliott in Eugene Levy's Schitt's Creek.

— Scott

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember the "Guess what's in this guy's pants" show vividly. The rest of that segment, he just kept saying "pants pant pants pants" at every pause. He was laughing at it, but you could tell he was REALLY pissed.


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