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The new, worse, late-night TV game: Out with Letterman and Ferguson, in with pandering to the kids

The clear out continues.

First Leno, 64, then Letterman, 67, and now Craig Ferguson, 51. The older white guys of late-night TV are walking away. Plainly, it's time for a rant about television and other media pandering to the younger audience. Don't get me started.

I never cared for Leno.

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Letterman earned respect for the mayhem and delightful weirdness he introduced to the late-night genre years ago. Also, respect for his longevity and devotion to cranky-old-guy comedy. Couldn't be beat for that.

Ferguson was – and remains until the end of this year – a different kettle of late-night cod. Amiable, smart, ego-free, he took as much delight in interviewing authors he admired as he did with movie stars and rappers.

There are TV-racket reasons why Ferguson is going from the 12:35 a.m. slot on CBS. The news that Stephen Colbert, 49, would replace Letterman had a domino effect. Letterman's production company owns the Ferguson show and, clearly, that wasn't going to continue. Also, CBS execs never stepped up to say "Ferguson is still our guy at 12:35!" The message was clear – just as NBC has tried to skew young with Jimmy Fallon, 39, at 11:35 and Seth Meyers, 40, at 12:35, CBS is itching to get a younger, more lucrative (to advertisers) audience in late night.

In that context, even slotting Stephen Colbert into Letterman's show is a gamble. He'll be 50 when he takes over. Pretty much Craig Ferguson's age. Maybe he'll be in character as a 39-year-old. Because the point, we assume, is to snare the 18- to 49-year-old audience. The one demographic advertisers like. Aged 50-plus, you are nothing to these people. Nothing.

To this I say, "harrumph." Obviously.

Jimmy Fallon? Don't get me started. Those endless lip-synch competitions on The Tonight Show are inane. You could get diabetes from just looking at the obscene level of cuteness. As for the whiny-voiced Seth Meyers, you have got to be kidding me.

Here is the upshot of Meyers's interview with Lena Dunham on his show recently – Meyers: "You're so great!" Dunham: "You're so great, too! Love this show!" Meyers: "You're adorable." In a traditional cranky, older white male display of disgust, at that point I poured myself a small dry sherry and fell asleep.

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Kids today. Don't get me started. Awake again, outraged and seething at TV's craven pandering to the youth audience, I decided to seek out what kids today are writing about and talking about. Your millennials, your trailblazers. To achieve this, of course I went to social media.

There I found fellow TV critic Will Harris, an American chap, asking the question "Who says today's journalists are afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions?" and pointing to something on our own, proudly Canadian, MuchMusic website. Intrigued, I followed along and felt sure I'd get a taste of what's buzzing.

And indeed, there, on the MuchMusic site, I found the quintessential example of media by, for, and about the youth of today. The headline asked an intriguing and provocative question: "Is crotch cleavage the new sideboob?"

What a topic! The writer – and I use the term advisedly – opened with verve: "Sideboob was once considered shocking and controversial, a fashion faux pas that most wouldn't dare try. But let's be real: no one cares about sideboob now."

To fit in with millennials and stave off the feeling that I am elderly and nothing, I could only agree. Who cares about sideboob any more? Yeah, that's so old.

The piece in question went on to make the sort of audacious assertion you expect from young journalists today. Based entirely on the fact that actor Rumer Willis (she totally rocked Hawaii Five-O, the new one, not the old one) had recently walked a red carpet in a "super-revealing cutout skirt" that offered a glimpse of her underwear, the piece coins the term "crotch cleavage" and declares, "Yep, this is the new shocking look, folks." Also, for good measure there is the declarative "…this can totally turn into a thing … and we're quite frankly a little scared."

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Scared? Don't get me started. I'm terrified. Seeing women's underwear, no less. No wonder older white guys are giving up or being told to bugger off. What with Lena Dunham being so adorable, Jimmy Fallon being able to lip-synch and MuchMusic being so great at the journalism thing, it's time for older white guys to recognize that the future is in good hands, and retire.

The clear out continues. Don't get me started.

Airing tonight

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) features the return of Bob Newhart as the TV science-show host known as Professor Proton. Last year, Newhart, a TV legend, won his first Emmy, awarded for this role. And that, as they say, seems crazy. Bob Newhart is 84 1/2 years old.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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