"The stereotype of former presidents is that you're sitting around your house, waiting for someone to call", said the 44th president of the U.S., Barack Obama, in his first talk-show appearance since leaving office a year ago. "I have been nothing but lucky, and the luck continues ... you are the first president I truly and fully respected".
But the first hour of "My Next Guest" - Letterman has planned five more monthly episodes - is a frustrating exercise in talking a lot but, ultimately, saying very little. If this were on television, rather than Netflix, the only thing that might make someone pause their clicking and recognize My Next Guest as a David Letterman show are the familiar hazel eyes squinting behind his glasses as they did for thousands of late-night episodes.
As Obama so astutely noted during their long interview (the episode has a 56-minute run-time), "It's a whole new ball game now, man".
"My Next Guest With Needs No Introduction with David Letterman" now sits at an early rating of 60% on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, after its debut, Barack Obama-featuring episode premiered Friday on the streaming service.
David Letterman listens to former President Obama on his new Netflix talk show, which premieres Friday.
There are a few glancing allusions to the current administration in a brief conversation about the media, social media, and possible Russian meddling in the last election: "One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don't share a common baseline of facts", the former president says. That's probably why the audience for Letterman's first show, filmed in NY, went absolutely insane when Obama was introduced by Letterman (one of the show's conceits is that nobody in the audience knows who they are there to see).
He was clearly pleased as punch with his scoop, and initially the programme seemed a bit too self-congratulatory, as the two swopped bromance-y anecdotes about how they were filling the time these days and how uncool their children find them.
"Alright, that's pretty much all I got", he said on his final "Late Show" on CBS on May 20, 2015, just before a closing performance by Foo Fighters.
Vanity Fair writer Laura Bradley expressed disappointment with the "bland" show failing to go deeper with Obama, as well as dodging Trump discussion.
Back onstage, Letterman gets several laughs by pretending Obama is still in office.
"Oh, he would have been here", Lewis replies. "Not just African Americans, but all Americans. because I think what has happened in America today is a threat not just to our own country, but to the planet".
"Mr. President, this is what I am struggling with at this point in my life".
"Why wasn't I in Alabama?" he asks. On traditional televised talk series, the interviews are shorter and more promotional: politicians looking for exposure with a certain audience; actors promoting movies or, more recently, defending themselves against allegations of unsavory conduct; and, occasionally, authors hawking a book.
George Clooney will be Letterman's next subject.