The Late Shift (film)
|The Late Shift|
|Written by||George Armitage
|Directed by||Betty Thomas|
|Starring||John Michael Higgins
|Theme music composer||Ira Newborn|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Original release||February 24, 1996|
Behind-the-scenes network politics embroil television executives responsible for late-night programming after 1991's retirement announcement of Johnny Carson (played by Rich Little) from The Tonight Show on NBC.
Carson's permanent guest host Jay Leno (Daniel Roebuck) and the host of the show that follows Carson's each night, David Letterman (John Michael Higgins), both vie for the position. It is widely assumed that Letterman is the hand-picked heir apparent Carson favors, but privately NBC executives speculate that Leno could be more popular with 11:30 p.m. audiences, as well as easier for the network to deal with and control.
Leno's tough manager Helen Kushnick (Kathy Bates) secures the spot for Leno with negotiating tactics that could be construed as either shrewd or unethical. Leno is concerned that her methods might alienate Carson, but he made promises to Kushnick after his career took off and does not wish to be disloyal. She harshly instructs the comic to just keep telling jokes and leave the business end to her.
Surely enough, she lands Leno the coveted job as Tonight Show host and the producer's position for herself, on the condition that no public announcement will be made. Letterman continues to believe he is still in contention for the position. Another reason NBC's executives prefer Leno is that they will own the show, whereas Letterman stipulates that he will maintain ownership rights to his.
Kushnick's bullying manner angers Leno's bosses, colleagues, potential guests, and others to the point of interfering with network airtime and relationships. The top NBC executives warn the mild-mannered Leno that they are going to fire Kushnick and, if he sides with her, he would be let go as well. Kushnick is dismissed by NBC and barred from the studio lot. She keeps pleading with Leno to keep his promise to her, like taking care of her and her daughter, but he is angry because she nearly cost him a dream job. Leno eavesdrops on a private executive meeting in which they discuss the possibility of having Letterman step in as host. The final say falls to the chairman of NBC's then-parent company General Electric, Jack Welch, who advises the NBC executives that they should remain loyal to Leno.
Letterman, devastated at being passed over, hires Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz (Treat Williams) to negotiate on his behalf, resulting in Letterman's courtship by a number of major networks and syndicates. He continues to hold on to his lifelong dream of hosting The Tonight Show, but when Tonight Show/Late Show producer Peter Lassally (Steven Gilborn) makes it clear that the Tonight job is now "damaged goods," and that he would be working with the very people who passed him by (and after a call to Carson), Letterman accepts a lucrative offer to host his own 11:30 show on CBS.
Letterman and Leno ultimately go head to head at 11:30, with Letterman winning in the TV ratings in the beginning, then Leno firmly re-establishing his show's lead in the ratings. Their personal relationship, once cordial, is never quite the same.
Real life CBS executive Rod Perth (played by Ed Begley Jr. in the film) appears briefly in a cameo role. (He’s the man Howard Stringer mistakes for Perth in the CAA lobby). Actor Ed Begley Jr. and Rod Perth share an extraordinary physical resemblance, something the film makers milk for humor in the scene.
The film received seven Emmy Award nominations in categories including "Outstanding Made for Television Movie," makeup, casting, writing, directing, and acting. For her role in the film as Helen Kushnick, actress Kathy Bates won awards from the American Comedy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the Satellite Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The film was also recognized with an award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials" from the Directors Guild of America Awards. However, David Letterman, who saw clips of the film, called the movie "the biggest waste of film since my wedding photos." He also likened John Michael Higgins' portrayal to that of a "psychotic chimp." Letterman invited Higgins onto his program, but Higgins declined.
Awards and nominations
|1996||Artios Award||Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week||Nancy Foy||Nominated|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Casting for a Miniseries or a Special||Nancy Foy, Phyllis Huffman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing for a Miniseries or a Special||Betty Thomas||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Miniseries or a Special||June Westmore, Monty Westmore, Sharin Helgestad, Del Acevedo, Matthew W. Mungle||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Miniseries or a Special||Bill Carter, George Armitage||Nominated|
|Outstanding Made for Television Movie||Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck, Daniel Goldberg, Don Carmody||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special||Treat Williams||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special||Kathy Bates||Nominated|
|1997||American Comedy Award||Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication||Kathy Bates||Won|
|DGA Award||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials||Betty Thomas, Jake Jacobson, Richard Graves, Robert Lorenz||Won|
|Golden Globe||Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV||Kathy Bates||Won|
|Satellite Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television||Kathy Bates||Won|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television||Treat Williams||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries||Kathy Bates||Won|
Kushnick filed a $30 million lawsuit against Bill Carter, author of the eponymous book upon which the HBO film was based, claiming libel. Specifically, her case related to a claim that she planted a story about Carson's retirement in the New York Post. The then-pending lawsuit was noted in the film's epilogue, as the Broadway tune "There's No Business Like Show Business" plays. The lawsuit settled out of court for an undisclosed sum; Kushnick died of cancer in August 1996.
On January 19, 2010, during Conan O'Brien's final week as host of "The Tonight Show," guest Quentin Tarantino jokingly suggested that he direct a sequel to The Late Shift, cast O'Brien as himself and make it a revenge movie in the style of his film Kill Bill with the title Late Shift 2: The Rolling Thunder of Revenge. The Toronto Star reported in February 2010 that a sequel to The Late Shift film was in planning stages. In the final episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, O'Brien stated he wished that actress Tilda Swinton could portray him in a film version about The Tonight Show conflict. Swinton subsequently expressed interest in being cast as Conan O'Brien in a sequel to The Late Shift.
When asked in a June 2010 interview with Movieline if there was going to be a film adaptation of The War for Late Night, Carter responded that plans were not serious at that point, stating, "Not really. Nothing serious. Let’s put it this way: There have always been people kicking it around because they think it’s funny. ... Letterman made a ... joke saying that Max von Sydow should play him. So, you know, people are just kicking it around like that." Actor Bob Balaban, who portrayed NBC executive Warren Littlefield in the film The Late Shift said he would like to portray Jeff Zucker, and stated actor Jason Alexander would also be a good choice to play Zucker.
- "Emmy Nominations". The Orlando Sentinel (Sentinel Communications Co.). September 9, 1996. p. A4.
- Elber, Lynn (Associated Press) (July 19, 1996). "'ER' leads the way with 17 nominations for Emmy Awards". The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Publishing Company). p. C5.
- Lorando, Mark (July 22, 1996). "Emmy aberration". The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation). p. C1.
- Sun-Sentinel wire services (February 19, 1997). "Disney cuts a deal on new series". Sun-Sentinel (Sun-Sentinel Company). p. 5E.
- From Beacon Journal wire services (January 21, 1997). "Golden Globe Winners List". Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio). p. C9.
- City News Service (January 17, 1997). "Golden (not Globe) Awards recognize finest in Hollywood". Daily News of Los Angeles. p. L10.
- Associated Press (February 25, 1997). "'Seinfeld,' 'ER' win Screen Guild Awards". Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa). p. A11.
- "People". Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, California). March 11, 1997. p. A02.
- Jacobs, A.J. (9 February 1996). "Early Word on HBO's Late Shift". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
- Internet Movie Database staff (2009). "Awards for The Late Shift". Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
- "1997 1st Annual SATELLITE Awards". International Press Academy (The International Press Academy and The SATELLITE Awards). 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
- Fleming, Michael. "Dish: Fox backing off the gay buss", Variety, 21 April 1994.
- Shales, Tom (January 19, 2010). "Tom Shales on the villains in the Leno-O'Brien fiasco at NBC". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2010-01-23.
- McNamara, Mary (January 20, 2010). "Show Tracker - Late-night Watch: The Revenge of Conan O'Brien". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Conan O'Brien; Quentin Tarantino (January 19, 2010). "Season 1, Episode 142". The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
- Bierly, Mandi (January 20, 2010). "Quentin Tarantino to direct Conan O'Brien in 'Late Shift 2: The Rolling Thunder of Revenge'". Entertainment Weekly: PopWatch (Entertainment Weekly, Inc.; popwatch.ew.com). Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Salem, Rob (February 28, 2010). "Why Tonight belongs to yesterday". The Toronto Star (Toronto Star Newspapers Limited). p. E01.
- "Conan O'Brien's next move". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. February 24, 2010.
- "The Bullseye: Hits". Entertainment Weekly (www.ew.com) (1088). January 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Miller, Julie (June 18, 2010). "Late Shift Author Bill Carter on ConanGate, Letterman’s Heirs and the Cannibalization of Late Night". Movieline (www.movieline.com). Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Gillette, Felix (January 27, 2010). "Bob Balaban on Late Night". The New York Observer.
- Carter, Bill (January 30, 1994). "Behind the Headlines in the Leno-Letterman War". New York Times. p. 628.
- Carter, Bill (2007). Desperate Networks. Broadway. pp. 333–340. ISBN 0-7679-1974-2.
- Carter, Bill (2010). The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02208-3.
- Helen Gorman Kushnick v. Disney Book Publishing, Inc., et al. (1994) Los Angeles Superior Court