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|Index||27 reviews in total|
Captivating tale of backstabbing behind the curtains. The movie follows
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
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.
as a former TV editor, I can say this is as authentic as it gets. It even led to Letterman's producer (thought to be a source) resigning (eventually) in real life. Letterman was outraged (OK, so one goofy thing is it has him throwing softballs at a tire swing on his estate; total fabrication) but the main information is hilariously true, from the silly bidding war for Letterman once he decided to leave NBC to Leno's problems with an agent who was not ready for big time, but who he let run the show (almost to a disastrous exit) out of his famed loyalty. If any of you kids don't grasp the idea of why Letterman is jealous to this day, see this tape.
THE LATE SHIFT was an interesting made for HBO movie that took a detailed look at the power struggle that ensued between David Letterman and Jay Leno when Johnny Carson announced his retirement and both wanted to replace him. This struggle is now part of Hollywood folklore, but for those who don't know the story and are aware of where Letterman is now, it might be interesting to learn that David Letterman wanted to replace Johnny Carson as host of THE TONIGHT SHOW more than anything in the world, but Letterman found his dreams being derailed as frequent guest host Leno had one of Hollywood's most powerful agents, Helen Kushnick, in his corner and working tirelessly to get her client the job. It's not often that we get to see behind the scenes Hollywood machinations recreated for entertainment value, but for fans of these two late night superstars, this movie provided a fascinating look at a very turbulent period in late night television. According to this movie, Letterman was practically promised the job by Carson himself while NBC had promised the job to Leno and that's where Helen Kushnick came in. The movie presents Leno as sort of a milquetoast who allowed his career to be manipulated by Kushnick and feigned ignorance to some of Helen's strong-willed manipulations of some of NBC's biggest power players and it presents Letterman as this smart and savvy businessman who, despite having Carson's support, was railroaded by NBC and Kushnick. John Michael Higgins and Daniel Roebuck credibly recreate Letterman and Leno, respectively, but it is the razor-sharp performance of Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Helen Kushnick that keeps this movie bubbling. Bates commands the screen in one of her best, if not so well-known performances as the venomous Hollywood agent who eats television studio executives for breakfast. There is also a wonderful turn by impressionist Rich Little as Johnny Carson, but it is primarily a fascinating story and the powerhouse performance by Bates that make this one worth checking out.
Alright, so maybe the impersonations of Jay Leno and David Letterman are
spot on, but you still get a sense of who these people are and how they
operate behind the screen. Bob Balaban and Treat Williams are excellant
Warren Littlefield and Micheal Ovitz.
The movie doesn't go for joke and punchline but it is still funny. Kathy Bates in particular is amazing as Leno's manager.
Funny, amazing, interesting, very watchable, this is a good TV movie.
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.
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.
Although a made for cable film by HBO, it is an enjoyable movie and a fascinating look at the back-stabbing and double-dealing world of television. Allowing the viewer to peek behind the scenes of the so-called late night talk show wars in the early 90s, as Jay Leno and David Letterman competed for the coveted position as host of the Tonight Show. Kathy Bates gives a bravo performance as Leno's mercurial manager Helen Kushnick and one can feel empathy for what Leno/Letterman endured at the hands of tv executives. It is just as timely now, considering the recent events involving the failed attempt by ABC to replace Nightline with Letterman. No matter how many times I have seen this film, I still find it as much a pleasure to watch as I did when it first aired. If this should ever be released on DVD, I would certainly add it to my collection.
The Late Shift is a great book, I read the book several years ago, and I was transfixed at the cutthroat debauchery that went on when Johnny Carson retired and Jay Leno and Johnny Carson tried to grab his spot. When the movie came out, I snagged a VHS copy of the movie, and having reread the book recently, it's hard to say which I enjoy more, because they're quite equal in the amount of information conveyed. The two lead actors, John Michael Higgins, and Daniel Roebuck, two actors I never heard of before, and haven't heard of since, play Leno and Letterman convincingly, despite Letterman's dismissal of his portrayal as being poor. They play the parts quite well, despite a lot of people looking for an imitation of the two. I wasn't as interested in that. The story is what counts. And that brings me to Kathy Bates. Kathy Bates, playing Helen Kushnick, IS this movie. She plays this evil bitch of a character so menacingly you realize how on earth can this woman control herself, much less a national TV show. Yikes! There should be a sequel!!
While The Late Shift is in no way as good as the original book that describes in detail what happened to David Letterman, Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Helen Kushnik and the rest of the late night cast of Characters, it is quite enjoyable, a good ride, and a fun time. Both Leno and Letterman are played well, if not a wee bit over-acted. It's worth renting.
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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