You have to hand it to David Letterman, on one level. On last night's show, he treated himself like he would any scandal-addled politician he routinely mocks in his monologues. Quite directly, he compared himself to Mark Sanford ("Right now, I'd give anything to be hiking on the Appalachain Trail") and Bill Clinton (really, all he had to do was say the name) and Eliot Spitzer (ditto). He even offered shades of his famed Paris Hilton post-jail interview, in which she desperately tried to change the subject, but he wouldn't let go. "I wasn't going to talk about it anymore," he said of the extortion case and the revelation that he'd slept with women on his staff, "but people seem like they want to talk about it."
It was smart PR, addressing the situation directly, self-flagellating gently, softening the blows with self-deprecating humor. It was funny throughout. And Letterman did give us a bit more insight into the situation. The relationships with staffers -- "those episodes," he called them -- were "in the past." His wife, Regina Lasko, was apparently not pleased. That was the oddest and most awkward part of Monday night's confessional; Letterman apologized profusely to his current staff for putting them in the position of being questioned by the press. He apologized jokingly to Sarah Palin (a very good line). But when it came to addressing his wife, he didn't say the words "I'm sorry." He just suggested that he might or might not be able to set things right with her, and said, "I got my work cut out for me." He also didn't directly address the inherent problems with a work environment where the boss sleeps with his underlings -- and those are real problems, dear commenters, whether the boss is a celebrity or not -- though legally, he probably had no choice.
Will he survive this bout with ill-repute? My best guess is yes. Letterman's studio audience lapped it up and showered him with applause. His guests seemed unfazed, even as Letterman kept joking about the scandal; this is still a fantastic and ever-better-rated forum for a plug. And if Spitzer can try for a comeback, who couldn't? We are, alas, accustomed to celebrities behaving badly. Capacity for forgiveness is a virtue, to be sure. I hope, for everyone's sake, that he and his wife can make amends. But I'd feel better about it all if Dave -- and a lot of his fans -- could acknowledge precisely why what he did was wrong. And I'd feel better still if I knew that the "Mad Man" days of office sexual politics were truly behind us.
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.