David Letterman will talk about a number of subjects he doesn’t usually discuss when he appears as Oprah Winfrey’s guest on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” Jan. 6.
The Letterman appearance was announced Tuesday by OWN, and we were struck by the interview’s timing — coming to the air just two days before the late-night landscape undergoes a seismic shift Jan. 8 when “Jimmy Kimmel Live” moves to 11:35 p.m. (10:35c).
We wondered: Is Letterman launching a rare p.r. blitz in advance of Kimmel’s move? More on that in a moment.
According to the OWN announcement, Letterman and Winfrey got together for the interview when they were both in Indiana last month at Dave’s alma mater, Ball State University, where they both appeared on stage and gave a talk for students.
The announcement said Oprah got Dave to open up about some private subjects — including “the public sex scandal that rocked his marriage, his personal relationships with ‘Tonight Show’ hosts Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, how he repaired his marriage, and his battle with depression.”
Of these, we’re most interested in how his marriage was affected by the revelations that Letterman had an affair with one staffer on “Late Show” (and possibly more than one), and his relationship with Leno, both currently and in the past.
The thing that intrigued us most about his marital turmoil during the sex scandal: How he could come on TV night after night and entertain and tell jokes when his domestic life was a shambles. Hopefully, he’ll talk about all of that.
As for his relationship with Leno, that has long fascinated us, and anything we can learn about that will have us glued to the set on Jan. 6.
Also on that show, OWN says, Oprah will be seen telling Dave the “true reason” why she felt less than friendly to him for many years (starting, according to most accounts, after Dave hosted the Oscars in 1995).
With “Jimmy Kimmel Live” moving into direct competition with both “Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Letterman seems to be adopting a higher profile lately. Where formerly you only saw or heard Dave in the hour that his “Late Show” was on TV, here he is appearing for an entire hour with Oprah Winfrey two days before the traditional two-way race at 11:35 p.m. weeknights suddenly becomes a three-way competition.
Perhaps more significantly, Dave will be seen on “The Kennedy Center Honors” Dec. 26 (on CBS) receiving one of the nation’s highest honors for artists. It’s a prestigious environment for Letterman and will likely be watched by more people than usually tune in for this annual, year-end event because Letterman will be on it.
Certainly, Letterman and his p.r. advisers had no control over when the Kennedy Center Honors show would air. But the fact that it’s coming just shy of two weeks before the Kimmel shift is a happy coincidence for Dave and his team. And if Dave comes across as likable, candid and honest in his Oprah interview on Jan. 6, he may be able to ward off any possible erosion that could result from the arrival of Kimmel in the same time slot. As for Leno, there’s no word on whether he’ll be raising his profile in the weeks leading up to Kimmel’s big move.