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 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 <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Letterman, Leno and the battle over the Tonight Show. 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
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Did You Know?


In this film, Bob Balaban played NBC President Warren Littlefield. He also played the character Russell Dalrymple on Seinfeld (1989), the NBC executive who was inspired by Littlefield. See more »


The scene at the NBC meeting at Carnegie Hall when Johnny Carson announces his retirement takes place in May 1991. Behind Johnny is the fall 1991 NBC schedule. Mad About You is displayed to air on Wednesday nights. The show did not premiere until the fall of 1992. See more »


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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References Late Show with David Letterman (1993) 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
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User Reviews

Excellent account of the late night wars.
20 July 2000 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Captivating tale of backstabbing behind the curtains. The movie follows the plight of David Letterman and Jay Leno as they struggle for the elusive Tonight Show spot. Letterman led by his desire for the coveted time slot and Leno led by his agent and little-devil-on-the-shoulder, Helen Kushnick.

Kathy Bates (Kushnick) is excellent in this movie, alienating herself from such top dogs as Bob Wright, Warren Littlefield, and Howard Stringer. Towards the end of the film you are so entranced with how she handles every situation from guest bookings to delayed taping, that you find yourself wanting more.

John Michael Higgins (Letterman) plays his part to the tee. At times I found myself wondering if he was any relation to the real Letterman.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in entertainment or the world of corporate negotiations.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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