The joke is on CBS viewers as The Mentalist replaces Letterman, starting tonight


Well, after that epic final Late Show with David Letterman last night, the hangover now begins in earnest for all Letterman fans. 

It will be a rude shock for people tuning in CBS tonight in late night. Instead of seeing a debut of Stephen Colbert, or seeing anyone else fill in until Colbert’s official takeover this fall, CBS will be filling the Late Show time period with reruns of The Mentalist and other shows, starting tonight.

This is either (a) dumb, because this will get CBS absolutely no ratings, or (b) smart. After all, look what happened to Jay Leno after Johnny Carson’s last Tonight Show aired on NBC. 

Jay took over immediately the next week with no buildup, nothing. Instead, everyone was still in national mourning over Johnny’s emotional leaving — which is exactly the same thing going on now with Letterman. How can anyone compete with that? 

CBS must be thinking that by the time the fall arrives the viewers will be so sick of reruns that they will be desperate for Colbert, so they figure they can really build up the hype for his show so everyone will want to watch. It is an interesting strategy, but there is a real risk the entire potential audience for Colbert will have flown the coop in the meantime. 

In other TV news, the Letterman set is already being thrown in the trash.