Dave Returns to TV with Reege and Cosby
February 15, 2000
Well, the Late Show isn't going live, but outpatient Letterman is returning to the airwaves Monday, Feb. 21.
Five weeks after open-heart surgery, Letterman returns part-time to his late-night CBS show, and two of television's biggest stars — Bill Cosby and Regis Philbin — will pitch in as his first guest hosts, the show announced Monday.
Starting next week, Letterman will be back behind his desk two or three days a week, turning the show over to a guest host for the rest of the week until he is ready to return full time, producer Rob Burnett told reporters in a conference call from New York.
Will that first "Top 10" list be about his quintuple bypass surgery? You bet your bippy. Letterman's trademark list "will certainly deal with Dave and his health," Burnett added.
"I heard him say to [bandleader and sidekick] Paul Shaffer that the procedure is so non-invasive now that they went in through his wallet," the producer quipped.
Cosby, star of his own long-running sitcom on NBC and a more recent, but lower-rated, self-titled CBS comedy series, will take the helm as Letterman's first-ever guest host Tuesday, Feb. 22. Cosby is currently on hiatus, according to the show's official Web site.
Definitely not on hiatus is busy-as-a-bee Philbin, who already juggles hosting duties on ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and his long-running morning show with Kathie Lee, will host for Letterman Feb. 24.
Philbin, to whom Letterman revealed his heart problems on the last Late Show broadcast before his surgery, is also booked as the guest on Letterman's first night back. Actress Julia Roberts, who was one of several celebs who taped new introductions to Late Show reruns in Dave's absence, will be a guest on Letterman's second night back.
Letterman's Feb. 21 program will mark the first all-new segment of the program to air since the 52-year-old star underwent surgery Jan. 14 to remove an artery blockage. "He feels great," Burnett said. "What he doesn't know is how he'll feel after hosting a network television show."
His return and the use of guest hosts could prove a late-night ratings coup for CBS in the midst of the February ratings "sweeps," one of three ratings periods used by the networks to gauge future advertising rates.
The introduction of guest hosts during Letterman's gradual return to the show will likely pave the way for the use of guest hosts when he goes on vacation in the future, something he has never done in his 18 years on late-night TV, Burnett said.