6.8/10
2,883
30 user 9 critic

The Late Shift (1996)

A dramatization of the rivalry between David Letterman and Jay Leno to over which of them would succeed Johnny Carson as the host of "The Tonight Show".

Director:

Betty Thomas

Writers:

Bill Carter (book), Bill Carter (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kathy Bates ... Helen Kushnick
John Michael Higgins ... David Letterman
Daniel Roebuck ... Jay Leno
Bob Balaban ... Warren Littlefield
Ed Begley Jr. ... Rod Perth
Peter Jurasik ... Howard Stringer
Reni Santoni ... John Agoglia
John Kapelos ... Robert Morton
Steven Gilborn ... Peter Lassally
John Getz ... Brandon Tartikoff
Lawrence Pressman ... Bob Wright
Sandra Bernhard ... Sandra Bernhard
Treat Williams ... Michael Ovitz
David Brisbin ... Alan Levine
Michael Chieffo ... Rick Ludwin
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Storyline

HBO movie about the behind-the-scenes network politics responsible for the changes in late-night talk-show hosts, after the retirement of Johnny Carson from the Tonight Show on NBC. Jay Leno and David Letterman were both vying for the position, but Leno's tough manager Helen Kushnick got him the spot. In the wake of her 'stepping on the toes' of powerful network executives and 'playing hardball' tactics with guest bookings, she found herself being pushed out of her job as Tonight Show Executive Producer and Jay's manager. Letterman, devastated by his being passed over, brought in superagent Mike Ovitz to negotiate on his behalf, resulting in his move to CBS. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Letterman, Leno and the battle over the Tonight Show. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 February 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Late Shift See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Bob Morton, Letterman's producer, says he's going on a date, Letterman (the actor playing him) says, "Is there anyone left?" And Morton grins: "Plenty." This is based on Robert "Morty" Morton's track record of dating gorgeous magazine models. Howard Stern would talk about it a lot. Once, interviewing Merrill Markoe, Letterman's ex girlfriend, she confirmed this with a reply of: "Morty always dates models." See more »

Goofs

The film depicts Johnny Carson's familiar theme music playing when Jay Leno performs as a guest host on "Tonight." This music was only used for Carson himself, and never for Leno. See more »

Quotes

Jay Leno: What do you mean you got page one of the Post? You told me we didn't have anything to do with that story!
Helen Kushnick: Oh, for Christ's sake, grow up.
Jay Leno: You lied to me?
Helen Kushnick: We've always played the same game. You never want to know what I'm doing for you, so you can be Mr. Nice Guy. "Booking war? What do I know? Helen handles that, I do the jokes." You just want me to keep serving you steaks - you never want to know how I'm slaughtering the cow!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Many of the talk show interviews were cut for time, including more celebrities and Paul Schaffer/David Letterman schtick. See more »

Connections

References Studs (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

There's No Business Like Show Business
Performed by Ethel Merman
Written by Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin Music Company
Courtesy RCA Victor Red Seal Division of BMG Classics
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Solid Account Of The Leno-Letterman Battle
18 October 2009 | by sddavis63See all my reviews

I read the book written by Bill Carter on which this movie is based many years ago. The book is certainly stronger than the movie. It provides more detail than a movie can possibly provide, the end result being that I thought the movie seemed a wee bit sketchy on a handful of items. All things considered, though, and given the limitations of the medium, the movie provides a wholly entertaining and informative account of the battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman in the early 90's to host "The Tonight Show" after the retirement of Johnny Carson.

The highlight is clearly the performances. I can think of no more difficult performance for an actor than to play a character who is still alive and well-known and on TV on a regular basis. John Michael Higgins nailed the part of Letterman perfectly. Watching him really was like watching Letterman. Daniel Roebuck tried valiantly to be Jay Leno, but somehow didn't pull it off as effectively. His whole "look" seemed fake, and he just didn't seem natural in the role. In a less central role, Rich Little not surprisingly nailed the voice of Carson, although the look was a bit off. In the book, the most interesting of the central figures was probably Leno's agent, Helen Kushnick. In the movie, Kathy Bates was perfect in the role, although not quite as out of control as Carter's portrayal of the woman in writing.

In the end, this is light and entertaining viewing. The subject matter isn't especially important in the overall scheme of things, but it's a fun behind the scenes look at a memorable time in the entertainment industry. 7/10


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