Saturday, December 21, 2013

McEnroe Steps Into Jay Thomas' Shoes to Preserve a Late Show Holiday Tradition

When it comes to Christmas traditions, little things mean a lot. That's why I was so sorry to learn that Jay Thomas wouldn't be appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman this year for the program's final pre-Christmas broadcast. Letterman's final show before Christmas has become a special treat for many fans, largely because of the annual appearance of Darlene Love. For the past 28 years, she's closed the show with a rousing version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," a song she first recorded for the classic holiday album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which was released 50 years ago last month. By those standards, Thomas is a relative newcomer to Letterman's pre-holiday festivities, but he's been part of the show since 1993, which surely establishes his contributions as traditional. Thomas is tasked with two jobs each year – participating in the annual Quarterback Challenge, and telling his hilariously funny Lone Ranger Story – and while neither seems to be inescapably seasonal, they've taken on all the trappings of mistletoe and Christmas stockings. Thus, the news that Thomas would be sidelined this year due to a recent surgery was akin to seeing Santa take off without Donner and Blitzen. It might work, but it just wouldn't be the same. Little did we know that last night's first guest, tennis star John McEnroe, had been specifically recruited to fill Thomas's shoes for the night. That's right, McEnroe not only assumed the Quarterback Challenge (albeit with tennis balls instead of a football), but he also took on the greater challenge of telling Thomas's Lone Ranger story:

If you ask me, McEnroe did an amazing job, and he sure made it seem like Christmas again. And things got even more festive toward the end of the show when it was time for the pièce de résistance 

Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Darlene Love:

Now it's really time for Christmas. Let the celebrations begin!

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