6.8/10
3,039
30 user 10 critic

The Late Shift (1996)

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".

Director:

Betty Thomas

Writers:

Bill Carter (book), Bill Carter (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kathy Bates ... Helen Kushnick
John Michael Higgins ... David Letterman
Daniel Roebuck ... Jay Leno
Bob Balaban ... Warren Littlefield
Ed Begley Jr. ... Rod Perth
Peter Jurasik ... Howard Stringer
Reni Santoni ... John Agoglia
John Kapelos ... Robert Morton
Steven Gilborn ... Peter Lassally
John Getz ... Brandon Tartikoff
Lawrence Pressman ... Bob Wright
Sandra Bernhard ... Sandra Bernhard
Treat Williams ... Michael Ovitz
David Brisbin ... Alan Levine
Michael Chieffo ... Rick Ludwin
Edit

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 »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

When David is telling Jay at the conference to call Morty and he'll book him on the show, Dave points at Jay and his hand switches from left to right. See more »

Quotes

Michael Ovitz: Peter, I know Dave's circumstances, and so I know why you're here. Dave is a star of such compelling stature that frankly it makes me personally angry he finds himself this abused. We pride ourselves here at CAA in developing a career plan for our clients that protects them as much as it enriches them. David has set such an incredibly high professional standard and yet he is going disturbingly unrewarded. That just doesn't make any sense; it's simply bad business practice. Obviously, we have an...
See more »

Alternate Versions

Subsequent airings after the initial release have added an additional epilogue on how the Hugh Grant interview boosted Jay Leno's ratings past David Letterman's. See more »

Connections

References Major Dad (1989) 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
See more »

User Reviews

 
A Fascinating Look at one of Hollywood's most interesting Power Struggles
16 May 2007 | by Isaac5855See all my reviews

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.


17 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 30 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 February 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Late Shift See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Holiday Movies on Prime Video for the Whole Family

Prime Video has you covered this holiday season with movies for the family. Here are some of our picks to get you in the spirit.

Get some picks



Recently Viewed