The Late Shift (1996)

TV Movie  |  R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Talk-Show  |  24 February 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 2,257 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 4 critic

A dramatization of the rivalry to be the successor of Johnny Carson as the host of "The Tonight Show."



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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rod Perth
Howard Stringer
John Agoglia
Bob Wright
Sandra Bernhard
Alan Levine
Rick Ludwin


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

24 February 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Changement de décors  »

Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Bob Balaban who played NBC President Warren Littlefield, played the character Russell Dalrymple on the series, Seinfeld who is an NBC executive who was inspired by Littlefield. See more »


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 »


David Letterman: [outside CBS Studios right before the press conference] Gentlemen, we are just going from one bizarre circumstance to the next.
See more »


References Mad About You (1992) See more »


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

I don't know how true it is, but it's mighty entertaining!
11 March 2000 | by (NJ, USA) – See all my reviews

I think this movie actually has a lot of nice things to say about a lot of people (Johnny Carson, Ted Koppel), and it shows that Letterman and Leno actually liked and respected each other a lot. Treat Williams as the half-Kung Fu Master, half-Godfather-like Mike Ovitz is terrific.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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