Recommended Reading 2/11/11 – The War For Late Night
The War For Late Night, Bill Carter’s journalistic expose on the latest debacle in late night television, is surprisingly riveting. Carter, of course, wrote the book for the first big go-around back in the 90′s, the bestseller Late Shift, which was made into a pretty awesome HBO movie. That first book gave an inside perspective on the events dealing with the Tonight Show “scandal” between David Letterman, who lost out and moved to CBS, and Jay Leno, who ended up the “king of late night,” depending on who you ask.
The new book is even better, particularly because the story is juicier this time around. Conan gets the Tonight Show promised to him, Jay is moved to prime time out of fear he won’t “retire” as promised and move to ABC – the ratings for both programs drop dramatically. NBC proposes moving Jay back to 11:35 and Tonight to 12:05; Conan refuses out of respect for the flagship program and moves to TBS. Meanwhile, the drama unfolds in front of millions on television, and Letterman, Kimmel, Ferguson, and the rest take it all in, but not without cracking jokes about it.
That’s the main focus, of course, and it seems like Carter talked to EVERYBODY about it, from insiders to the stars themselves. Deep knowledge is made known about Team Jay, Team Conan, Team Dave, and the executives at the major networks. Not to mention the book contains a vast amount of info on other late night stars not necessarily involved in the main plot, but interesting nevertheless (Stewart, Colbert, Fallon, et al.) We learn alot about the late night/television business through the eyes of the entertainment, producers, presidents, everybody, and Carter remains objective throughout. A fantastic read, I wasn’t able to put it down.