6.9/10
2,754
29 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 »
Reviews
Popularity
4,795 ( 287)

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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:

Two heads fighting for the late night crown - One head's gotta roll. 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

Jimmy Brogan, the best friend of and head writer for Jay Leno for the first nine years of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992), was critical of Daniel Roebuck's performance as Leno, but was impressed by John Michael Higgins' performance as David Letterman. See more »

Goofs

When Letterman is doing his show, Robert Morton and Peter Lassally appear in the wings and speak to Letterman. In the next scene, the three are speaking in Letterman's office after the show and Lassally is wearing a different suit. See more »

Quotes

Jay Leno: I may look stupid, but I'm Italian. I know how to find information!
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

Referenced in The Jay Leno Show: Episode #1.87 (2010) 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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