There's sure to be a Top 10 list about heart surgery when David Letterman returns to host CBS's "The Late Show" Monday. Letterman will tape the broadcast Friday, according to executive producer Rob Burnett. But Letterman won't be back nightly right away.
"He continues to feel great, but what he doesn't know is how he'll feel after hosting a network television show," Burnett told reporters in a teleconference yesterday. "We have to wait to see how that goes."
Letterman's return Monday will be followed Feb. 22 by an original "Late Show" with guest host Bill Cosby. If he's feeling up to it, Letterman will host again Feb. 23, with Regis Philbin sitting in as guest host Feb. 24. This is the first time Letterman has used guest hosts in the 61/2 years he's been at CBS.
"We like the idea," Burnett said. "It's in the spirit of the old Johnny Carson show. There's a real possibility in the summer when we have [vacation] weeks we may continue to have guest hosts."
But don't expect to see Carson turn up as a substitute for Letterman. Burnett said he and Letterman haven't discussed extending Carson an invitation, and he didn't think it was likely.
"Johnny for us is in some sort of hallowed hall of talk show hosts," Burnett said. "We almost assume he would be above all of this. ... I think Dave might feel he'd be imposing on Johnny by asking him."
In addition to filling in as a guest host, Philbin will be Letterman's first guest on Monday's show. He was the last guest on "The Late Show" in January before Letterman's quintuple bypass.
"Regis seemed to make the most sense because he's a friend and he's tied to this experience," Burnett said. "And he's had a heart problem himself, so for a lot of reasons this made sense for us."
Julia Roberts is booked as a guest for Letterman's second appearance.
This week will continue "The Late Show Backstage," as guests talk about their past appearances with Letterman. Tonight, David Brenner chats with Kathie Lee Gifford and Alec Baldwin. Tomorrow, Tom Snyder welcomes Norm Macdonald and Don Rickles. Thursday, Snyder chats with Mike Myers. Friday, Tom Arnold interviews Robin Williams and Jack Hanna.
Letterman will get additional recuperation time in March. "The Late Show" has a scheduled vacation the week of March 13 due to the NCAA basketball tournament.