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The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Carter, who covers the television industry for The New York Times, writes of the corporate battles surrounding late-night talk shows in the wake of Johnny Carson's retirement.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Carter, a media reporter for the New York Times , provides an inside account of one of the hottest behind-the-scenes power struggles in the history of television: the battle for Johnny Carson's vacant seat on the Tonight Show.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786889071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786889075
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bill Carter has written an extraordinary book.Structurally-given the mass of information,biographical detail and anecdotes involved-this could have ended up as a mess,but in fact it is clear,coherent and quite exceptionally well-balanced.Carter has to tell a fairly complicated (certainly very convoluted)story,and he does so brilliantly.He also has to find space to acknowledge and evaluate a broad range of opinions,and,again,he does so with remarkable discipline and even-handedness.Even if one knows little about the magnificent Letterman and the super-professional Leno,this book is still too interesting,too insightful and too fair-minded to miss.
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By A Customer on March 1, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A thoroughly entertaining and insightful look at these two personalities and the even more entertaining and often comical workings of corporate broadcasting. A must for anyone who mixes business and talent relations for a living.
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Format: Hardcover
Amazing. Absolutely Amazing. There's somethign for everyone. Leno Fans tried of their hero's good guy image get to see him squatting on a box, spying on a GE Board Meeting. Letterman Fans get to see their hero angry as heck when NBC let's him know that they've given his lifelong dream to chin-boy, after 10 years of faithful service on their network. Johnny stuck in the center, with NBC begging for his help, obviously siding with Dave, but committed to stay out of it. There is no better story for E! True Hollywood or any fan of Late Night.
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Format: Hardcover
As I write this, David Letterman's last show is tonight.

I've been meaning to read this for a long time, after seeing the HBO movie, and I thought this was the perfect time. I started watching Dave in about 1985, on summer vacation from grade school, and found a comedy home. Here was a guy whose bizarre world of crushing things with 50 ton presses, taking over the speaker at a McDonalds and asking a customer if he would go buy a bag of onions, and looking at random people's photos right after they were developed (Remember that?) had me waking up my parents from laughing too loud. This was a guy who didn't need a punchline to be funny. I loved it then and still do now.

As much as I like Dave, though, I think this book is slanted a little bit too much in his direction. Most of the intrigue, scheming, and counter-scheming does seem to take place after Leno gets the Tonight Show job, but the last half of the book is, more or less, the story of Dave going to CBS.

(As far as a ratings battle, I never really saw much overlap in their audiences. Leno is a very good stand-up comic, Letterman is a very funny master of ceremonies. The fans of one are not too likely to be that interested in the other.)

Reading this, though, I kept remembering that, after his recovery from Shingles, Letterman started taking a mild anti-depression medication and seems much happier because of it. Putting aside the comedy, I wonder how much less troubled he would have been during his time on Late Night and through this if he'd been diagnosed and treated earlier.

Dave may be considered an also-ran for not getting the tonight show, but I think it's pretty clear who won the "war" between him and Leno. The multitude of late night talk shows on today adhere much more to Letterman's style of individualized, oddball comedy than to Leno's setup/joke/punchline, repeat.

(Now, I need to find a copy of The War For Late Night!)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
It was a heck of a battle, and some folks didn't exactly play fair. Letterman, by far the more deserving of the "King of Late Night" crown following Carson's unceremonious ousting, tried to win by being the best at what he does. Leno's camp won by using strongarm tactics, bullying, and underhandedness. Even Leno's show "borrows" rather heavily from Dave's old show, partly because his people lured Letterman's chief writers to their side. Leno may be a decent guy (I hear), but his management quite literally stole The Tonight Show for him. Dave was hoping to be let in through the front door, but Leno's camp broke in through a window. The companion HBO movie treatment of this book is also a very entertaining and enlightening dramatization of the basics of this ordeal.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Man, I have read this book beginning to end maybe 10 times.
It is addictive. It reads like a great novel starting with the king stepping down and the princes fighting for the crown.

A must read for comedy addicts and fans of late night
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Format: Hardcover
This book is absolutely riveting. No matter which late night show host you prefer, you will appreciate both of them more after seeing how hard they work at what they do.
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Format: Hardcover
This was my second book of leisure ever (being a 21 year old and my first book of leisure being the Hunger Game trilogy). I got fascinated with Johnny Carson and then that lead me to the whole debate of Jay Leno and David Letterman. I stumbled across this book title and said why not it could be good. Well it was more than good; it was a page turner for me. Bill Carter wrote the book with so much detail and quotes from people that it really felt like you were inside the war of late night. I went from never reading a book outside of school to reading this book in a weeks time. I highly recommend this to anyone who ponders what happened with the switch from Johnny Carson. This book will not disappoint you. 
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