After signing off from late-night television last night, David Letterman has some pretty big shoes to fill. Not to mention pants.
But the future of Worldwide Pants Inc., the production shingle the comedian-host founded in 1991, is very much up in the air. Aside from the Paul Rudd-Selena Gomez movie “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” which is now in post-production for an expected 2016 release, the company’s once-robust slate is notably thin.
WWP will not be producing Stephen Colbert’s version of the CBS 11:30 p.m. offering, which debuts on Sept. 8. Nor is it producing “The Late Late Show With James Corden” despite overseeing three previous iterations of that hour-long series in Letterman’s post-“Late Show” timeslot.
And there looks to be a shift in staffing at the company now that “The Late Show” is off the air.
In an interview with TheWrap this week, Worldwide Pants president-CEO Rob Burnett indicated that he probably will focus on his own creative projects rather than remain as top executive. “I think it’s unlikely that I will continue in that role when things wrap up here,” said Burnett.
Burnett wrote and directed the aforementioned Rudd-Gomez movie “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” an adaptation of a novel by Jonathan Evision novel. (That project came to WWP through subsidiary B&B Productions — a partnership between Burnett and former “Late Show” head writer Jon Beckerman.)
In addition to finding a new president, Worldwide Pants also awaits a new direction dependent entirely on how Letterman wants to follow his historic on-camera run. Still, Letterman’s rep, Tom Keaney, insists that the company is “not shutting down.”
In the meantime, it’s unclear what will happen to WWP’s staff, which numbered as high as 70 in 2007. “The company will have a fair number of staff for a while dealing with end-of-show issues,” Keaney says.
Worldwide Pants will likely be moving to new offices as well; the company has been headquartered at the Ed Sullivan Theatre building in New York City, where “The Late Show” filmed for 22 years.
Burnett, who has been with WWP since its inception in 1991, is vague about the company’s next moves. “I honestly don’t know,” Burnett tells TheWrap in this week’s installment of “Office With a View.” “Dave and I haven’t had a lot of conversations about what it is that he wants to do going forward.”
CBS did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on any future plans with Letterman’s company.
Given Letterman’s sterling reputation, though, Burnett believes “the world is his oyster. He’s living in a world where brands couldn’t be more important and he is a very definite brand — and I think that extends to the production company.”
However, Burnett indicated that he himself is looking to play a new role in the future. “I’m a little bit of a hybrid in that I can function as an executive, but I also come at this from a writing, directing standpoint,” he says. “I want to spend time writing and dealing with my own projects as opposed to overseeing other projects.”
“For the success of the production company, you’ll probably need someone in there that can develop other people’s work, and I think for me, I have a little less interest in doing that now,” he added. “Also, after 29 years of this, I don’t know that I’m super-eager to be in a position where I have to be at a certain place at a certain time anymore.”
At one time, Worldwide Pants was a major force in production. In addition to “The Late Show” and “The Late Late Show,” the company produced the 2000-04 NBC dramedy “Ed,” the HBO Foo Fighters doc “Sonic Highways” and its crown jewel, the 1996-2005 CBS sitcom mega-hit “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Worldwide Pants has had shows on CBS, NBC, ABC, and HBO. The company produced the 2005 Amy Sedaris-Stephen Colbert movie “Strangers With Candy.”
“I’m very proud of the work we did here with this production company,” Burnett says. “Because, look, most production companies, if we’re honest — of this nature — are vanity companies that get set up when celebrities make big deals. They don’t really do anything. But we did produce quite a lot of stuff.”
Letterman and WWP helped to launch the careers of a wide range of stars, including Bonnie Hunt, Jim Gaffigan, Ray Romano, Craig Ferguson, and “Modern Family” leading ladies Julie Bowen (“Ed”) and Sofia Vergara (the short-lived ABC sitcom “The Knights of Prosperity”).
Read Letterman EP Rob Burnett’s interview in this week’s edition of TheWrap’s “Office With a View”: