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".

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Rod Perth
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Howard Stringer
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John Agoglia
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Bob Wright
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Sandra Bernhard
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Alan Levine
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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 »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

24 February 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Changement de décors  »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A few days after the film's premiere, John Michael Higgins was booked on Late Show with David Letterman (1993) to talk about the movie and what it was like to portray Letterman. Higgins then sat in the green room as Letterman spent the next hour padding bits and doing filler, all the while promising Higgins was "coming up". At the end of the show Letterman apologized to Higgins for "running out of time", pointedly saying he hoped the actor could "come back again soon." Higgins was never re-booked. See more »

Goofs

A shot of a limousine driving down a NYC street is in fact a shot taken from the 1987 film "The Secret of My Success". Michael J. Fox's plaid shirt is visible through the window as he sits in the driver's side of the limo. See more »

Quotes

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

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Gabriel Byrne/Alanis Morissette (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Johnny's Theme
Written by Paul Anka and Johnny Carson
Chrysalis Standards, Inc. / Here's Johnny Music / Songs of Polygram Int'l
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User Reviews

 
Well done and good original movie dramatization that's funny and tense while taking a behind the scenes look at the late night TV wars of the early 90's.
31 May 2008 | by (Petersburg, Virginia) – See all my reviews

Over the years I've watched this movie many times from seeing it on "HBO" and I now own a copy on DVD. I must say it's very memorable and entertaining in the meantime it's interesting and educational too. As any TV fan can relate to the time of the early 90's when the time came up to replace Johhny Carson the TV living legend of "The Tonight Show" who's it gonna be Jay or Dave? This original film from HBO "The Late Shift" stays true to form and depicts the real events very well showing the behind the scenes battle between networks heads of NBC and CBS and even ABC they were all fighting for the services of Jay and Dave. The acting makes it seem real as very little actual TV footage is shown with real life people as the actors portraying Leno and Letterman make it seem so real. I haven't read the Bill Carter book so I don't know if it stayed true to the pages, but I have highly enjoyed this film over the years. From the moment when it starts showing CBS entertainment heads watching Leno sub for Johhny and they decide they want to get in on the late night game. Yet when Carson announces his unexpected retirement NBC wants to stay loyal with Leno yet conflict arrives when Letterman wants a crack at the slot at 11:30 too. It was fun to watch the wacky meeting with Michael Ovitz(Treat Williams)who makes all networks want to consider Letterman for a show. It was interesting to see the scene of Johhny telling Letterman by phone in a direct way to walk from NBC and consider CBS. And by the way Rich Little was terrific as Johhny Carson his portrayal couldn't be matched. And plenty of tense moments were provided by showing the bickering and firing of Leno's talent manager Helen which NBC heads pressured him to do. Overall great film that showed what TV is really like and it proves that networks are power and money hungry while showing that's it's a cutthroat business. Clearly there's no business like show business. Great work from HBO very memorable and a watch anytime it showed the true story of the late night wars.


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