Letterman's friends step in to keep 'Late Show' going


Putting off for now the decision on whether to use guest hosts, CBS will get by another Letterman-less week with a little help from Dave's friends.

Beginning Monday, "The Late Show with David Letterman" will feature a week of interviews with some of Letterman's favorite guests, sprinkled among snippets of their past visits to the show.

The new interviews, which could account for as much as one-third of the hourlong shows, will be conducted by Paul Shaffer, Charles Grodin or Regis Philbin. The guests will include Philbin, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Roberts, Danny DeVito, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, Sarah Jessica Parker and Bruce Willis.

"I'm hoping that next week, because of the interest and novelty of this format, we'll get something" entertaining out of these shows, "Late Show" executive producer Rob Burnett said during a conference call yesterday. "The biggest thing for us is that it not turn into some sort of tribute or homage for Dave. Dave has not passed on; this is not the big thing where everyone is sitting around talking about how wonderful Dave is."

Getting celebrities to help out was not a problem, Burnett said.

"The people that are slotted in for this week, they're obviously huge celebrities, but they're also real friends of Dave's and the show people we have always been able to rely on ..."

Burnett said there are no solid plans for the return of Letterman, who is recovering from bypass surgery Jan. 14. The show has no plans beyond Friday, leading to speculation the host could return Feb. 14, but Burnett refused to be pinned down.

"We're both kind of waiting for the doctors to say OK," he said.

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