All that publicity about Dave, and you still didn't watch

MIKE LITTWIN

September 01, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

I'm stumped. I'm confused. I thought I understood the world, and now I'm pretty sure I don't.

Here's the deal.

You find yourself up at 11:35 last Monday night. The TV set is on. Heck, the TV set's always on. You remember the old days. You'd watch Johnny and then whatever came on after Johnny and then there'd be the devotional and then the jet flyovers with a rousing "Star-Spangled Banner" recording in the background and then -- bam -- a test pattern with those cross hairs in the middle, to make it easier for Elvis I figured. They don't have test patterns anymore, do they?

But I digress.

You're up at 11:35 on Monday night with the TV on, and only one-fourth of you -- 25 percent -- who stay up that late tune in to watch David Letterman's return show.

This is stunning. You could knock me over with a stupid pet trick.

Haven't you been paying attention? The Return o' Dave has been proclaimed as the greatest thing to hit the Western world since iced cappuccino and still you can't be bothered. I don't mean people who have real jobs and have to get to sleep. I mean people like myself who are up late at night with nothing better to do.

According to the Neilsen overnight ratings -- which, as you know, are compiled by elves who live in your TV set -- 25 percent of those watching TV at the time in Baltimore and 34 percent in the rest of the country were watching Dave.

Of course, those were winning numbers in the late-night wars. You'd expect that on opening night. But all I keep thinking about is the people who were awake (granted, many at 11:30 counted as awake are actually semi-comatose) and weren't watching Dave.

You know who you are. You're the ones I need to get answers from. Here are the questions (sorry, no multiple choice):

You weren't even the teensy-weensiest bit curious about the new show?

You didn't care about all the hype?

You didn't have the sense that if you came to work the next day and people asked if you watched Dave, and you said, "No, I wanted to, but it was the 'Cheers' episode where Cliff's mother's fiance wins the lottery," that people would think you were terminally unhip?

OK, hipness is a relative thing. I still like Bruce Springsteen, who, people tell me, is now as hip as Neil Diamond. But it's the curiousity thing that has me baffled.

Look, I'm no Diogenes, but if I'm up at that hour, whether or not I'm a Dave fan, I'm going to tune in.

I want to see the new set (big). And Paul's shirt (loud). And how far off the edge Bill Murray is willing to go (NASA won't ever get there).

You've got to be curious about the special guests (Paul Newman saying, "Where the hell are the singing cats?").

Not to mention the renamed Late Night Top-10 list. And Dave's hair.

I mean, it's free. Not only is it free, you don't even have to get off the couch. This is the wonder of our age. All you have to do is hit the remote. With a flick of the finger and through the magic of science, you can see all the Dave you need.

But, no, you turned down science. You watched "Studs" instead. Or maybe "Cops." What's the fascination with cop shows anyway? We spend more on cop shows than we actually do on putting cops on the streets so we can feel safe watching our TVs late at night.

Nobody watched Jay, but many of you tuned in "Nightline," which is a ratings hit in Baltimore. That means we must have an unusual number of smart people. But wouldn't smart people vTC want to see what all the Dave fuss was about?

I think I may have discovered part of the answer. It's a great and terrible truth: People don't really care about hype or what the so-called opinion-makers think.

For the last few months, Dave's face has been everywhere. He's been on the cover of every magazine, from GQ to Guns & Ammo. And, of course, he wore that famous one-piece in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

In Monday's newspaper, wherever you live, there was a huge Dave piece as a final follow to a summer's worth of Dave pieces, most of them lovingly composed. You were told he was the darling of the hip set and the funniest man who ever had cable TV. You were told you had to tune in.

Most of you didn't.

There's a lesson there. If you figure out what it is, let me know.

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