A dramatic account of the politics and personalities behind NBC’s calamitous attempt to reinvent late-night television.
When NBC decided to move Jay Leno into prime time to make room for Conan O’Brien to host The Tonight Show—a job he had been promised five years earlier—skeptics anticipated a train wreck for the ages. It took, in fact, only a few months for the dire predictions to come true. Leno’s show, panned by critics, dragged down the ratings—and the profits—of NBC’s affiliates, while ratings for Conan’s new Tonight Show plummeted to the lowest levels in history. Conan’s collapse, meanwhile, opened an unexpected door of opportunity for rival David Letterman. What followed was a boisterous, angry, frequently hilarious public battle that had millions of astonished viewers glued to their sets.
In The War for Late Night, New York Times reporter Bill Carter offers a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the events of the unforgettable 2009/2010 late-night season as all of its players—performers, producers, agents, and network executives—maneuvered to find footing amid the shifting tectonic plates of television culture.
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