Wow. Sometimes the speed of the 24-hour news cycle really is breathtaking. Tonight's "Late Show With David Letterman" was a terrific, meaty show featuring Jon Stewart and a surprisingly uncomfortably-grilling interview with Nick Lachey, whom Letterman had on the hot seat about the dissolution of his marriage. Kind of painful to watch. Both post-worthy items in a strong show that were completely dwarfed by this: Dave's out-of-the-blue, shockingly out of order "Major League Baseball Minute" promising "all the action from the world of baseball." This was CLEARLY filmed before Letterman and his production team learned that the plane that crashed into an Upper East Side building earlier that afternoon had been that of Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle.
A brief look at the timeline confirms this: Letterman usually films at 5:30 pm; news of Lidle's identity surfaced at roughly 4:50pm*. It makes sense that no one in the crew or audience was watching the news just then.
But after the taping, the show's producers had five-odd hours to realize that a goofy segment called "Major League Baseball Minute" (featuring show announcer Alan Kalter rapping) might not be appropriate; nay, might be shockingly tone-deaf. Have Paul do a bit, throw up a promo for Katie Couric, turn the top ten into the top twenty — whatever, just find some way to replace a wildly inappropriate segment (fans of Studio 60 know that it can be done). A similar circumstance occurred this year when Conan O'Brien hosted the Emmys: When a pre-taped Lost plane crash skit was rendered horribly apropos by the Delta Comair plane crash.in Lexington, Kentucky the same day...they opened the show with the bit, anyway (to much opprobrium).
CBS and the Letterman production team should have learned from that episode; it's hardly possible that they were unaware that the segement was in poor taste. That they ran it anyway was the easy way out — not to mention lazy, tacky, and tone-deaf.
*I can't find an official time when Lidle's name was first floated, but I had NY1 on, heard the news, and sent an email at 4:53pm, and here's Deadspin's post on the matter with first comment at 4:57pm.