The Late Shift

Watch The Late Shift

"Two heads fighting for the late night crown - One head's gotta roll."
  • R
  • 1996
  • 1 hr 35 min
  • 6.8  (3,666)

In 1996, HBO released the made-for-TV movie "The Late Shift" based on the book by Bill Carter. The movie chronicles the battle between two television networks, NBC and CBS, and two comedic late-night talk show hosts, Jay Leno and David Letterman. The Late Shift begins with the announcement that Johnny Carson, the long-standing host of The Tonight Show, is retiring. The question on everybody's mind is: who will replace him? NBC executives immediately start the search for a new host, but they also consider the possibility of taking a risk and shaking up the late-night landscape.

Enter Jay Leno (portrayed by John Michael Higgins), a stand-up comedian who had guest-hosted The Tonight Show on numerous occasions. He's affable and safe, with mass appeal, and seems like an obvious choice. David Letterman (played by Daniel Roebuck) on the other hand, is quirky and often controversial, with a cult following for his irreverent humor, and he currently hosts his own show on CBS.

Despite NBC's initial offer to Letterman to replace Carson, the network ultimately decides to go with Leno, believing he is the safer bet. This decision sets off a chain reaction of events, including a bitter fallout between NBC and Letterman that ultimately leads to Letterman leaving the network for CBS.

The Late Shift is a compelling drama that can be enjoyed even by those who aren't fans of late-night talk shows. Instead of focusing solely on the hosts themselves, the movie looks closely at the cutthroat business side of television, where executives make decisions based on ratings and advertising dollars. The Late Shift is also a fascinating character study, examining the different personalities and motivations of the key players in this behind-the-scenes battle.

John Michael Higgins is fantastic as Leno, capturing his affable demeanor and his ability to charm both executives and audiences alike. Daniel Roebuck also shines as Letterman, portraying the late-night host's quirks and eccentricity with precision. Meanwhile, Kathy Bates turns in a memorable performance as Helen Kushnick, Leno's former manager, who is determined to make him the new king of late-night television.

What makes The Late Shift stand out is its attention to detail. The movie was filmed on location in New York City, lending it an air of authenticity. The sets and costumes are also meticulously crafted, with the late-'80s and early-'90s fashion and technology adding to the nostalgic feel of the movie.

Overall, The Late Shift is a must-watch for anyone interested in the world of television and the history of late-night talk shows. The movie is well-acted, well-written, and offers a fascinating glimpse into one of the biggest battles in late-night television history. It's not just a movie about two famous comedians, but a story about the ruthless world of television where ratings reign supreme.

The Late Shift is a 1996 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 35 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8.

The Late Shift
Where to Watch The Late Shift
The Late Shift is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Hulu, Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent The Late Shift for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 35 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.8  (3,666)