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>
The directing is brilliant, the casting is remarkable (though I would've loved to have seen a little more of Aaron Lustig (from Y & R fame), who played Paul Shaffer). I only have two minor quips about the film, as subtle as they are. One- Roebuck's Leno is excellent, but his stage presence (i.e. during what appears the taping of one of his late show episodes) is a tad underwhelming. Two- the distribution of the foul language. I am willing to tolerate foul language, so long as it is not used gratuitously, and to a degree, the film was gratuitous. The language seemed to be used as a tool to reduce the pathos of Bates' otherwise well-portrayed Kushnick by her frequent use of it, and served to make Roebuck's Leno a goody-goody by his lack of use of it (of course, if the characters really did behave this way, kudos to everybody). Nonetheless, the piece is an excellent one, as far as television and video are concerned. The film, I feel, had potential for the big screen, but would've required re-casting for the bit parts, and probably a different director, as well (the aesthetic feel is that of the Larry Sanders show, good for HBO, mediocre for cinematic purposes).
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