Read The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night by BillCarter Online


The basis of an HBO cable-television movie special, the behind-the-scenes story of the ratings battle between the television networks, NBC and CBS, and their top comedians, David Letterman and Jay Leno. Reprint. TV tie-in....

Title : The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night
Author :
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ISBN : 9780786889075
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 310 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night Reviews

  • Brandon
    2019-02-17 00:24

    The Late Shift is the story of David Letterman, Jay Leno and the insanity surrounding The Tonight Show following Johnny Carson’s exit in 1992.Before I picked this up, I had read the author’s follow-up book, “The War for Late Night” which discussed at length the controversy surrounding Conan O’Brien’s boot from The Tonight Show in 2010. In that book, Carter laid the blame at the bumbling executives at NBC and after reading The Late Shift, it’s clear that NBC learned nothing the first time around.Way back in 1992, under pressure from Jay Leno’s tyrannical agent Helen Kushnick, NBC appointed him the de facto replacement whenever Carson decided to exit The Tonight Show. The problem? NBC completely snubbed David Letterman, a man who had put in a solid decade working the hour that followed Johnny. Letterman had been a ratings dynamo by pulling in that coveted 18-49 crowd studio execs lust after – why not give him a shot at 11:30?NBC believed Leno was the safest choice and judging by his performance guest hosting “Tonight” for Carson, he was the logical pick. It’s not like NBC went outside the box either. The consensus among critics was that Leno was the heir to the throne. Although he had rarely, if ever, alluded to the fact that he wanted The Tonight Show, Letterman was not even approached by the suits at 30 Rockefeller Centre about taking over hosting duties following Carson. Letterman would find out through a third party only after Leno had been selected that he would not be moving his show an hour up.Where do we go from here? Well, Letterman felt that at 42, he had outgrown the late shift. In order to advance his career, Letterman needed to move up to 11:30 and the thought of following Leno never appealed to him. Letterman didn’t want to leave NBC and NBC didn’t want to lose Letterman to a competitor like FOX, ABC or CBS.As Mick Jagger says, “You can’t always get what you want.”It still baffles me that Letterman and his agent Michael Ovitz were nearly able to get Leno thrown off The Tonight Show based on a hypothetical scenario in which Letterman would trounce Leno in the ratings game. Sure, there was a lot more to it than that, but Leno was already pulling in solid numbers and the two had never gone head-to-head before. You truly have to be a master manipulator to succeed in Hollywood.In the end, NBC should have just let Letterman go from the very beginning if they had already wrapped up Leno, but they couldn’t help themselves. In the end, they seemingly made the right call, but they were very lucky. Although Letterman destroyed Jay the first two years they went head-to-head, Leno would eventually recover, pull ahead of Letterman, and never look back.Like The War for Late Night, The Late Shift was a gripping read. Bill Carter, who had spent years covering television for The New York Times, heavily researched all the behind-the-scenes drama and crafted a thrilling narrative. The book is filled with several colorful characters as well as a truly despicable villain in Helen Kushnick. You could argue that she was just “doing her job”, but the way in which she is said to have spoken to colleagues, management and even Jay himself had taken me aback on multiple occasions. I’m looking forward to catching the HBO doc featuring Kathy Bates in the role of Helen that won her an Emmy.

  • CS
    2019-02-04 02:19

    After reading "The War for Late Night," I went back re-read Bill Carter's original book on the late night battle, "The Late Shift."Although the events of the book are now nearly twenty years old and most of the key figures (aside from Jay and Dave) have either died, left TV, or faded away, it's still a compelling narrative about the business of television and the inherent conflict between programming something "good" vs. programming something that looks good on a spreadsheet.And it's illuminating to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In both books, NBC has one time slot, the 11:30 pm "Tonight Show," but two stars who wants to host it. And two into one doesn't equal a whole number.In "The Late Shift," Johnny Carson, the king of late night television for 30 years, is retiring. NBC signed a secret deal with Jay Leno, the permanent guest host of the Tonight Show, some time earlier promising the job to Leno when Carson retires. But what NBC didn't take into consideration is that they already possessed a late night host who had been proving his chops (and earning NBC lots of money) in the person of David Letterman. Letterman hosted the 12:30 am "The Late Night" show for eight years, was considered the heir to Carson's legacy by none other than Carson, and thought the choice was clear: you give the job to the guy who puts out the best show.But Letterman was (is!) prickly, neurotic, painfully shy, and loved to bash NBC on the air. Leno was (is!) an inveterate people pleaser who tirelessly schmoozed NBC bosses and, more importantly, NBC affiliates around the clock. Yes, Dave was funnier, hipper, and had lots of support in the press. But Jay was nicer. In show business, it's not so much how you do the job, but whether people want to work with you. And the West Coast NBC executives, who made the programming decisions, wanted to work with Jay. Case closed.Only not so fast. Jay left open several windows for Dave. First, his manager, Helen Kushnick, was a control freak whose behavior became so unprofessional and adversarial that she had be fired. It's interesting reading Carter's take on Helen. Carter makes her out to be a bitch on wheels whose behavior verges on psychotic. However, Ari Emmanuel, Conan's agent in "The War for Late Night," is very well known for behaving exactly the same way: screaming, yelling, throwing tantrums, issuing threats (he's the inspiration for Ari Gold in the HBO series "Entourage.") Yet Ari comes off as a smart, savvy professional in the later book, while Helen is practically a cartoon monster in this one. Sexism is not dead in Hollywood, and this book reads as Exhibit One in how women are perceived vs. men.Be that as it may, Helen and her shenanigans leave a foul taste in NBC's mouth. Then Jay's ratings come in. They are decent, but not blockbuster. And they would certainly fall and NBC's very lucrative lock on the late night time period would end if another network could field a strong challenger.Cue the end of Dave's contract with NBC, which would allow him to look for another home.What happens next is old news to anyone with a television and a pulse. However, Carter tells the story - which is really just a bunch of agents and lawyers and executives sitting around a table and negotiating - with verve and finesse. It's a fast read, thanks to Carter skillful drawing of the characters. Even though the resolution occurred nearly 20 years ago, I was still anxious to learn the outcome of Bill Wright's various wheelings and dealings with Mike Ovitz (what is Ovitz up to these days?) and his own NBC/GE executives.In addition, since the events in this book still resonant to this day - as evident in Carter's later book - it's a must read for anyone interested in the business of television

  • Chip'sBookBinge
    2019-02-06 02:26

    Shocking, but this is the first time I've ever read this. This was another one of those books where the majority of the stuff within it's pages I had already heard about from different sources over the years: Online forums, Magazines, Entertainment News Shows, etc... So, for me there really was no desire to give this one a read. But then I heard that Bill Carter had a new book out called The War For Late Night, detailing the train wreck that was Jay Leno Vs. Conan O'Brien. Once I had a copy of that book in my hand I decided that I might as well start with The Late Shift and make it a marathon read for myself. And I'm glad I did just that.Simply put, The Late Shift is hands down the nuttiest, wackiest soap opera ever printed on paper. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The stuff that went down was so outlandish that it had to be made up. And yet, it's all real. The book itself reads like a roller coaster. There are so many peaks and valleys that you get dizzy after awhile. But you can't really ever put the book down at all, no matter how hard you try. The peaks in the book get to insane heights, and the highest of them all is of course Helen Kushnick. For those that don't know about her, she was Jay Leno's manager and Producer of the show who ruled with an iron fist. Even though this book is about Jay Leno and David Letterman fighting over who gets the keys to Johnny Carson desk on The Tonight Show, I believe the real star of the book is Helen, without a doubt. And once she is ousted from the show (as well as the book), it does take a big hit that you end up missing her crazy antics. I did anyways.The rest of the book continues with the roller coaster ride, but doesn't ever quite reach the same heights that you get with Helen at the forefront. This is why it gets a lesser rating from me. But that's not to say that the rest of the book sucks. There are still a handful of scenarios that will engage you all the way to the end: Jay hiding in a closet, David seeking council from Johnny and of course all the info pertaining to the pretenders to the throne: Arsenio Hall, Pat Sajak, Chevy Chase, Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, etc...Yes, even Conan O'brien is here. Duh.This is indeed a very fun, entertaining read that will have you flipping pages as fast as people were getting fired. I can easily recommend this to anyone that is a fan of Talk Shows or Soap Operas. I really hope that The War For Late Night doesn't disappoint here. But after The Late Shift, it's got a big task of at least equaling it. I still need to watch the movie version of The Late Shift. I have seen parts of it over the years, but never the entire movie all at once.

  • Jenn
    2019-02-21 03:17

    Bill Carter covers the inside-baseball aspects of the early 90s transition from Carson to Leno (and almost to Letterman) in a style that's almost suspenseful. I certainly remember the Leno-Letterman war that followed Johnny Carson's retirement, and was, at the time, a die-hard Letterman fan, but I had no idea what all took place in those shaky 2 years between Carson's retirement announcement and Leno's coronation.The most interesting parts of the book focus on the two stars -- Letterman and Leno -- and how both project on-screen personalities that are extremely different from their actual attitudes. Letterman, here, comes off as an insecure, detail-obsessed, slightly vulnerable, and often mean guy while Leno seems almost robotic and at times even a little damaged, a guy so distant from his own emotions that he doesn't know what it means to be "upset" or "stressed." Add to these character studies the compelling and in-depth way that Carter tackles the idea of comedy as a business, as a craft, and you have a book that's not only entertaining but informative. It's a rise-and-fall-and-rise-again story that, although I knew the ending going in, still surprised me.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-05 02:16

    1. I don't watch a lot of late night TV. 2. I remember when Carson retired, and staying up to watch his last show, but I was only 13 or so at the time. I decided to read this book in light of all the latest late night hullabaloo surrounding Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno. I didn't expect to find myself so deeply interested in all of this, but I am. Before reading "The Late Shift" I was of the opinion that Conan O'Brien was really getting screwed by NBC, just as David Letterman had been years before. This oponion is only reinforced now. So many of the things that happened *now* happened before. It's as if Jay Leno and NBC are in some crazy dysfunctional relationship where they can't lead seperate lives, and everyone else's career gets smashed in the fallout. David Letterman ended up laughing all the way to the bank after landing a deal on CBS, and I imagine that Conan will find a new (and better!) late night home, as well. As for the top brass at NBC and Jay Leno- they deserve each other. I'm sure Johnny Carson is rolling over in his grave.

  • Ruben
    2019-02-06 02:42

    A thorough insight to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that created, extinguished, then rekindled and prolonged the hand-off of America's greatest television program, The Tonight Show. The book outlines the careers of both David Letterman and Jay Leno; introduces their respective "camps;" and details the battles they faced as they pursued the late night crown. Bill Carter does a great job of gathering and sharing insider info from both sides of the battle, as well as the corporate perspective. Though not necessarily the purpose of the book, it demonstrates the real life impact that business decisions have on the lives of people who are often treated as disposable products.

  • Ben
    2019-02-11 01:38

    I read this in less than a 24 hour period. Being a fan of late night television at different points of my life, this was the book to tell you all about it.

  • David
    2019-02-14 02:33

    THE LATE SHIFT: LETTERMAN, LENO, AND THE NETWORK BATTLE FOR THE NIGHT, by Bill Carter is a "must read" for anyone interested in the history of late night television, it's stars, and 1980s/90s American television in general. Carter details how it all started with Johnny Carson's announcement on Thursday, May 23, 1991, at an NBC annual affiliates convention that, after nearly thirty years of hosting "The Tonight Show", Carson would be retiring and stepping down, and how, just a few days prior to that, NBC had just resigned Jay Leno to a contract renewal as Carson's regular back up host with a stipulation in the contract that should Carson ever step down, Leno would be the next regular host of "The Tonight Show". This started a chain reaction of events that would become one of NBC's biggest ongoing headaches of all time. David Letterman, then host of NBC's 12:30 am week night show, "Late Night With David Letterman", had been a bit in his time slot, especially with the all important "younger viewers" demographic group, for ten years, and he had always dreamed of taking Carson's spot as host of "The Tonight Show".At the advice of the producers of his show, Letterman hired a powerful, new agent and announced that he wanted out of his contract if NBC followed through on giving the "Tonight Show" to Leno, despite Letterman never having asked to have anything in writing prior to Carson's stepping down to claim the hosting job for himself.CBS, eager to have a popular show in late night for the first time, was just one of many interested suitors for Letterman. And NBC wanted to keep Letterman in their late night line up.Carter follows the many twists and turns that occurred from the time Carson announced his retirement, to Letterman's move to CBS in 1993 to host "The Late Show With David Letterman" directly opposite Leno and NBC's "Tonight Show" (and, up to the time the book was released, regularly beating "Tonight" in the ratings). Readers are introduced to the many network executives who quickly took sides in the Leno-Letterman controversy, the head of NBC who had to make the ultimate choice, the agents who represented Letterman and Leno, and the other stars who succeeded (Arsenio Hall) and failed (Joan Rivers, Pat Sajak, Chevy Chase) in the late night arena.I have never read a book that went to *this* extent in detailing the *business* end of television show business. Not only is THE LATE SHIFT an education into how network television deals are done even to this day, it also offers a look into the psyches of both David Letterman and Jay Leno, and the very difficult decision of whether to 1) stay with Leno (who already had the job and, though not the overall talent that Letterman was, had proven himself to be very loyal, cooperative, and hardworking), or 2) to publicly unseat Leno and give the "Tonight Show" to Letterman (overall a more talented talk show host than Leno who was very popular with younger viewers but who had often been openly uncooperative with and derisive of NBC in the past, and who many questioned if had the ability to appeal to a wider audience at the 11:30 pm timeslot).I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject matter that it covers.

  • Manuel Reis
    2019-02-07 23:30

    [English version below]Ler este livro foi algo desafiante. Dou os parabéns ao Bill pela história detalhada, mas, por vezes, os detalhes cansam. Existem claramente duas metades nesta livro: Antes e depois de Kushnick. Depois da saída dela do programa (não é spoiler, é a vida real), o livro fala sobretudo de contratos.Leiam se estão MESMO interessados no negócio da TV. Se não, vão ficar entediados a meio.---Reading this book was kind of a challenge. While I give my congratulations to Bill for this very detailed story, sometimes the details are too tiring. There's clearly two halves to this book: Before and after Kushnick. After her exit (not a spoiler, it's real life), the book is mostly about contracts.Read it if you're REALLY interested in the business. Otherwise, you'll get bored midway.

  • Christopher
    2019-02-17 03:15

    Oh man. EVERYONE is a jerk in this book. Leno's either a complete fool or and idiot, I'm not sure. I don't see how - at least from what's presented here - that he managed to stay on for the next twenty-odd years. And NBC wanting to have their cake and eat it too...that was an idiotic idea from start to finish. Letterman - who I was initially sympathetic towards - comes off as Sheldon-like in his mannerisms and complete fear of change. I'm glad it worked out for him in the end, but he really should have fought harder in the beginning instead of hiding every single time it came up. If he didn't have such dedicated cronies, I don't think he would have even gotten the CBS deal. I had some other thoughts while reading it but as I was on vacation I didn't have a notebook to write them down. Big thought though: I can't believe that after all this and what NBC should have learned they went and did it all over again with Conan. I have that book lined up and I'll be starting it shortly.

  • Gregor De La Muerte
    2019-02-12 22:20

    For anyone who is interested in and/or fascinated by the topic of American Late Night Television, and especially the Carson/Leno/Letterman shift of course, this book is an must have. For anyone who is just a little curious about the monolith that is (or was, I don't know, I'm german) American Network Networks, this book provides an interesting business point of view.

  • Myron M
    2019-02-11 00:32

    Interesting, but dragged at times. The meetings all kind of blurred together. I enjoyed that it ended with Letterman on top, about to go into hosting the Oscars. We all know how that went. :)

  • G. Branden
    2019-01-24 00:28

    This book was brought to my attention by the excellent HBO movie adaptation (starring Daniel Roebuck, John Michael Higgins, Kathy Bates, and a whole bunch of character actors you've seen in a dozen other productions).It's a fine book written with spirit and moves at a good pace, covering the first Tonight Show success debacle, way back in 1993.The author, Bill Carter, seems to try hard to retain a neutral stance, but it's hard not to read the narrative as one of David Letterman's betrayal by his own network, and the satisfaction he achieved by launching the first serious competitor to the Tonight Show franchise.As a "Generation X"-er, I'm old enough to remember Late Night with David Letterman and the days when Johnny Carson hosted Tonight; consequently, like Letterman and his serendipitous successor Conan O'Brien, I have great respect for Carson's command of his craft.While events subsequent to those chronicled here proved that Dave's ratings triumph only lasted a couple of years--thanks in part to Hugh Grant, but also due to Jay Leno's approach to his material and his show--see Carter's follow-up The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy for more on this--it also true that NBC never got back the Tonight Show it had once enjoyed. As The War for Late Night points out, what nobody seemed to realize back in 1993--not the NBC executives, and not the talent vying for Carson's seat after NBC ushered him out--was that when Johnny left the Tonight Show, he took it with him. After 30 years of almost nightly appearances on national television, to say nothing of creative control of the show through his own production company, the franchise was his; NBC was simply the berth at which it was moored.The Late Shift is nominally about the entertainment industry, but in my view it's most valuable as a book on business. This is how deals are really done when the stakes are high; what's in a negotiated contract is only a loose guideline to what may actually happen in practice, and promises and handshake deals evaporate as soon as they're no longer expedient.I recommend this book to fans of the craft of comedy, and to those who are curious to see what capitalist ethics look like in practice.

  • Riley
    2019-02-09 01:38

    Dug this book out of my boxes to re-read because of all the late night issues. I had forgotten how much I like this book. It is one of the first books that really got me interested in entertainment. Although it is present's both the Letterman and Leno sides well, you can see that the author does favor Letterman. No doubt I picked up on and influenced my optionality. There are A LOT of similarities and I guess some things never change, be it 1993 or 2010."Wright (NBC Executive) had even asked the research department to look into what effect it would have on the late local news on the NBC affinities if the network ran Letterman show at 10:00 p.m. each weeknight. Wright was considering offering Dave a weeknight show across the board at 10:00 p.m. as a possible fallback if that was the only way they could keep him at NBC.""A friend of Lassally's (NBC Executive) had told him that all network heads of programming are short-term thinkers, just by the nature of the job. They have to worry about prime time every week, and every sweeps month, and every development season, and every new fall schedule. they don't think about the next ten years, or even the next five. all that instant pressure was amplified for the programmer of a network with trouble in prime time."My opinion, I think that restoring Leno to 11:30 was short sighted. Although NBC owns the current Tonight Shown (unlike the late Carson era) over the next 5 to 10 years they are going to be in the same position of wanting those younger demographics.

  • Lauren
    2019-02-20 00:33

    I followed the Conan - NBC - Leno debacle fairly closely. And I kept hearing references to what happened with Letterman - NBC - Leno and decided to pick up The Late Shift. For a book about the entertainment industry, it's a surprisingly smart book (and better written and researched than many books I've read on more important subjects). The writing style has some weak spots (and I think the copy editor was told to give the manuscript no more than a brief review), but I enjoyed this book. Despite knowing the ending, I had a hard time putting this down. One thing that always interests me in reading topical books long after the fact is how they stand up to subsequent events. Other than ending with Letterman as the king of late night, this book is impressive for how well it dovetails with subsequent events, especially recent events (including Letterman's schtupping of staff members). As a result, Leno comes across as both a dumb idiot and an arrogant backstabber (maybe NBC's third attempt to get rid of him will finally be successful?). Letterman comes across as I already saw him: a neurotic comedian with issues who is, deep down, a good person (his refusal to take NBC's offer of a 10 p.m. slot struck me as an especially adept commentary on these two men). Finishing this, I have to wonder if Bill Carter is planning a follow up - because the drama of 2010 is a sequel worthy of telling. Highly recommended for those who followed NBC's screwing of Conan.

  • Denise
    2019-01-31 05:31

    Late Shift: Letterman, Leno and the Network Battle for the NightBy: Bill CarterThis was a fascinating account of every player that had their hands in on the late night battle. How NBC could run under the mismanagement and keep someone like Letterman, with egos the size of boulders, is beyond me. Letterman is and always will be a true genius, not everyone appreciates his style, appeal or his drive.I have been a Letterman fan since I was 16 years old and I have always like the kind of show he has put out there. Leno could never take over the Tonight Show and replace Carson....I don't think that anyone could take those reins and make it seamless. Carson was a legend and he was on the air for 30 years! Leno is stale and always has been, he seems like a very nice guy that is genuine! But he seems goofy, I never go the joke I guess. His set was boring and his band was a miss-match, I did however like the 'Jay-walking' bit. Pretty funny at first and then you knew that they coached the people after a while to keep the bit going.NBC's dealings with Letterman will go down in history kind of like when Boston traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees! CBS will reap the benefits of getting Letterman and changing late night for the next 30 years!!Letterman never did get the gig he had always dreamed of, but I think that if he were honest, he would say that he got something much better!

  • Rebecca
    2019-01-25 23:39

    I read another book from Carter back in like 2007 and I loved it and have been meaning to pick this book up forever. With the new late night wars going on, I finally remembered and I guess others had the same idea as me, because I had to wait a few weeks for this book. Mygod, was it worth the wait! So dated and so timely at the same time. Okay, so like Letterman used to have Conan's slot on NBC, shit happened and he went to CBS, where before him, they didn't have any late night shows, for the most part. There is a quick 3 lines in a larger paragraph about NBC wanting to give Letterman a 10pm show 5 nights a week, so he won't leave. SOUND FAMILIAR?!??! I almost chocked when I read that thow-away line. When Letterman started, he kicked Leno's arse, and oddly, I know when the ratings switched, but unfortunately, this book ended before that happened. This book kind of wrapped up as soon as Letterman's show started. It was also more about how NBC fucked Letterman more then what CBS did to save him. Even though this all took place during my lifetime, I don't remember it at all. It was all very 1970's, 80's and super early 90's and I guess I didn't start paying attention until like the mid-90's. Just so so interesting.

  • Caroline
    2019-02-01 23:29

    The Late Shift by Bill Carter tells the story, in a very clear and even-handed fashion, of the “Battle for Late Night” of the early 1990s. David Letterman and Jay Leno were two televisions stars, both up for the coveted position Tonight Show host. This book details how network executives and agents, producers and stars schemed, connived, argued and fought over the fate of this this lucrative position.It is utterly fascinating, and Bill Carter tells it well. He bends over backwards to be fair to all involved. He uses hundreds of direct quotes from the people involved and explains each person’s position in a fair and persuasive manner. Flaws are not whitewashed and no one is demonized.I do wonder, though, whether or not the Late Shift will hold up over time. Once Leno, Letterman, and perhaps even network TV are distant memories, will this still be interesting? Will the intense passion of this debate still draw fascination or will it simply be a curious footnote? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Late Night TV is ultimately trivial, but backroom deals and politicizing are universal things. Perhaps future readers will enjoy this book for its Machiavellian maneuvers. I sure did.

  • Kim
    2019-01-21 22:17

    I started reading this author's Leno/Conan book first, and then I realized that I would get more out of it if I read the Leno/Letterman book first. It was really interesting to see how much flying by the seat of one's pants television executives do in real life. That said, the author's attention to detail gets a little excruciating at points. If you are one of those people who can't keep track of elf names in fantasy novels, you are going to get tired of trying to keep track of network executive names in this book. They fly by with great speed. Carter does a really good job of trying really hard not to be cruel to Jay Leno but at the same time getting across what a weird inhuman robot he is. At some point, however, the litany of "stuff about how Jay is not great" gets extremely repetitive. A little more editing could have resulted in a much tighter and more elegant book. I think Gen-X (and older) readers who remember Johnny Carson will like this but younger readers are going to be puzzled about why people care so much about late night television.

  • Simone
    2019-01-28 03:40

    sadly i'm too young to really remember carson doing the tonight show, or even his leaving. my interest in the late night battles was peaked in my history of tv class last year when my professor showed some letterman at nbc clips, and i was shocked at how funny and sort of out there they were in a post-modern way. i found this book to be completely fast paced and fascinating (except for a few bits) but it's very behind the scenes, and i suppose you would need to be the type of person to find intense entertainment contracts and negotiating edge of the seat stuff. so not for everyone. my feelings toward the two are further complicated by nbc's recent decision to give away prime-time to leno. something i can no abide by and really wish to fail. i kept thinking if only they had given the tonight show to letterman. in that respect i think i feel similar to carter, who seems to have no qualms saying nbc screwed the pooch on this one.

  • Rachel
    2019-02-03 03:32

    The main take away from this book is never assume you have the position you have if you work with NBC. They are so messed up. Reading this 2 decades after it was written is hilarious because NBC still makes huge fuck ups with the tonight show and just handles it horribly. The book does great at giving background on Letterman, Leno and all the behind the scenes people involved in the battle for The Tonight Show after Carson announced he was stepping down. I felt the book was a bit unfair to Leno at times making him come off as a the bad guy, but it does explain why so many people don't seem to like him. But the flip side to that Letterman came off as a complete ass at times, yet he's viewed as the better of the two. I guess because the book is older it captures the feelings at the time and has since changed.

  • Liesl
    2019-01-23 02:29

    The Leno/O'Brien debacle earlier this year sparked my interest in this book, which was an incredibly absorbing, entertaining and at times shocking read. I had no clue about the extent of behind-the-scenes TV operations and how much sneaky, ruthless maneuvering truly goes on. Positions in this field are not for the faint of heart. The book goes into great detail about the many blunders that NBC made in going from Carson to Leno and letting Letterman get away to CBS, and with all of this history in mind I find it unfathomable that they let another catastrophe similar to this occur. I hope that Bill Carter will write a sequel dedicated to Leno's subsequent takeover of The Tonight Show from O'Brien.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-03 03:39

    Loved the topic and glad to hear that the parties involved generally agree that the book is an accurate and honest portrayal of the events surrounding the late night war. However, it was a hard one to get through. It took me forever to finish and seemed to drag on a bit. The chapters were long (I like shorter ones that I can easily finish in one sitting before heading to bed) and there were a lot of "players" to keep straight. Unless you're a die hard fan, I'd recommend just watching the HBO movie to get a good taste of the events. I saw the movie before reading it and definitely think it helped me keep the events straight. I will get around to reading the sequel that involves the more recent events of Conan, Jay and NBC.

  • Julie Elliott
    2019-02-12 06:41

    It was interesting to read this book 14 years after it was written, and 16 years after all the drama in the book. The author seemed to predict that Letterman would rise and Leno would continue to falter. But really, both seem to have done okay (I don't follow the nielsen's so maybe I'm wrong). The most fascinating part of the book is the story of Leno's agent, who became producer of the Tonight Show when Leno took over, and was very unpredictable emotionally. You find yourself appalled and also sympathetic each time she appears in the story. I wanted to see what happened to her after the events of the book, but sadly, she died in 1996. Once she is out of the narrative, the book gets a bit dull.

  • B
    2019-02-15 03:35

    This is a very interesting little yarn. What's most interesting about it now is how badly everyone wanted and fought over the 11:30 timeslot on NBC. How devaluated a prize! And yet virtually the same situation recurred re: Leno & Conan.I think everyone who reads this would agree that the book sides strongly with Letterman and concludes with Letterman triumphant. Again, amazing what time can do. Letterman is certainly a huge success, but the kind of success imagined at the time of the writing is essentially illusory now. No one can be Johnny Carson.A lot of rich detail about a moment in time that is both banal and strange.

  • Camelama
    2019-01-20 22:25

    Great writing about the players behind the scenes of Late Night TV in the 90s. I looked forward to my nightly chapter and frequently cheated and read more than one a night. Flowed nicely, flashbacks were handed very well, and characters introduced and fleshed out nicely as needed. Reading this after the recent Leno/NBC/Conan shenanigans made it even more interesting. I am left wondering if any of the NBC execs from that time were still left and involved in the recent "I call take backs!" of Leno. Mr Carter, write another book about the latest incidents! :)

  • Thomas Hunt
    2019-02-06 23:43

    I'd seen the movie, but now I read the book. The epic tale of Letterman vs. Leno. Leno had a pitbull working for him, and was willing in hide in closets spying on phone calls to get the job. Letterman never told anyone at the network how much the job meant to him, until it was too late. Johnny Carson's opinion didn't matter at all. Leno took over the Tonight Show and ruined it, ruining it a second time when he stole it back from Conan O'Brien. Great book, by a great journalist. I also enjoyed his second book about the Conan vs. Jay battle.

  • Jacob
    2019-02-15 03:19

    Inside-baseball for sure, but very interesting to read now that, essentially, the late night war is over, at least as far and Dave and Jay goes. Not to spoil things, but I thought the triumphant ending - Dave is the apparent winner, and about to take his triumph to Hollywood as the host of the Oscars - was especially poignant considering what came next. And it was fun to see Conan O'Brien pop up as a bit player, who we all know became the central figure in this book's sequel, which I'd like to pick up at some point.

  • Mike
    2019-02-12 22:26

    Perhaps books like this aren't meant to be read 15 years after the fact. I really enjoyed the inside-Hollywood aspect of it but found it a bit too much a love letter to David Letterman (and I like Letterman). It reads, I imagine, much like an encapsulation of the 2004 Presidential campaign would have read if it had been written in October, "John Kerry would handily unseat Bush..." except those things aren't true anymore. Still, I liked reading it and look forward to picking up Carter's book about the Jay-Conan kerfuffle.

  • Debra Komar
    2019-02-19 04:28

    Gossipy goodness about the silliness that was the coronation of Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. It now feels a bit dated, particularly since the story went on to include Conan O'Brien and all that nonsense, but Carter tells a fun story and keeps the action moving. I enjoyed it because I have always preferred Letterman to Leno - I think Dave is sharp and Jay is dull to the point of disappearing - and it is clear the author feels the same way. The palace intrigue and behind the scenes drama makes for a quick fun read and it never takes itself or its subject too seriously.