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The Late Shift (film): Wikis


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The Late Shift

DVD cover
Directed by Betty Thomas
Produced by Ivan Reitman
Don Carmody
Written by George Armitage
Bill Carter
Starring John Michael Higgins
Daniel Roebuck
Kathy Bates
Rich Little
Treat Williams
Music by Ira Newborn
Cinematography Mac Ahlberg
Editing by Peter Teschner
Distributed by HBO
Release date(s) February 24, 1996
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Late Shift is a 1996 American TV movie produced by HBO. It is based on the book of the same name by The New York Times media reporter Bill Carter.


Plot synopsis

The movie follows the behind-the-scenes network politics responsible for late-night programming surrounding the retirement of Johnny Carson (played by Rich Little) from The Tonight Show on NBC in 1992. Jay Leno (Daniel Roebuck) and David Letterman (John Michael Higgins) both vie for the position, but Leno's tough manager, Helen Kushnick (Kathy Bates), secures the spot for him. In the wake of some of her more fierce tactics, she is pushed out of her job as The Tonight Show executive producer and dropped by Leno as his personal manager. Letterman, devastated by his being passed over, brings in superagent Mike Ovitz (Treat Williams) to negotiate on his behalf, resulting in his move to CBS.


Actor Role
Kathy Bates Helen Kushnick
John Michael Higgins David Letterman
Daniel Roebuck Jay Leno
Bob Balaban Warren Littlefield
Ed Begley, Jr. Rod Perth
Peter Jurasik Howard Stringer
Reni Santoni John Agoglia
John Kapelos Robert Morton
Steven Gilborn Peter Lassally
John Getz Brandon Tartikoff
Lawrence Pressman Bob Wright
Sandra Bernhard Herself
Treat Williams Michael Ovitz
Paul Elder Rupert Murdoch
Michael Fairman Michael Gartner
Ken Kragen Himself
Aaron Lustig Paul Shaffer
Kevin Scannell Dick Ebersol
Edmund L. Shaff Jack Welch
Rich Little Johnny Carson
Little Richard Himself


The film received seven Emmy Award nominations in categories including "Outstanding Made for Television Movie",[1] makeup,[2] casting,[2] writing,[3] and directing,[1] acting.[1] For her role in the film as Helen Kushnick, actress Kathy Bates won awards from the American Comedy Awards,[4] the Golden Globe Awards,[5] the Satellite Awards,[6] and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.[7] The film was also recognized with an award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials" from the Directors Guild of America Awards.[8]


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1996 Artios Award Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week Nancy Foy Nominated[9]
Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Casting for a Miniseries or a Special Nancy Foy, Phyllis Huffman Nominated[9][2]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing for a Miniseries or a Special Betty Thomas Nominated[9][1]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Miniseries or a Special June Westmore, Monty Westmore, Sharin Helgestad, Del Acevedo, Matthew W. Mungle Nominated[9][2]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Miniseries or a Special Bill Carter, George Armitage Nominated[9][3]
Outstanding Made for Television Movie Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck, Daniel Goldberg, Don Carmody Nominated[9][1]
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Treat Williams Nominated[9][1]
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special Kathy Bates Nominated[9][1]
1997 American Comedy Award Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication Kathy Bates Won[9][4]
DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials Betty Thomas, Jake Jacobson, Richard Graves, Robert Lorenz Won[9][8]
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[9][5]
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[9][6][10]
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Treat Williams Nominated[9][10]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries Kathy Bates Won[9][7]


Kushnick filed a $30 million lawsuit against the 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 a New York City tabloid.[11] The then-pending lawsuit was noted in the closing credits of the film, 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.[12]


Carter has confirmed that he is currently researching for a sequel to The Late Shift, which will be based on the controversy involving Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show and NBC.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Emmy Nominations". The Orlando Sentinel (Sentinel Communications Co.): p. A4. September 9, 1996. 
  2. ^ a b c d 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. 
  3. ^ a b Lorando, Mark (July 22, 1996). "Emmy aberration". The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation): p. C1. 
  4. ^ a b Sun-Sentinel wire services (February 19, 1997). "Disney cuts a deal on new series". Sun-Sentinel (Sun-Sentinel Company): p. 5E. 
  5. ^ a b From Beacon Journal wire services (January 21, 1997). "Golden Globe Winners List". Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio): p. C9. 
  6. ^ a b City News Service (January 17, 1997). "Golden (not Globe) Awards recognize finest in Hollywood". Daily News of Los Angeles: p. L10. 
  7. ^ a b Associated Press (February 25, 1997). "'Seinfeld,' 'ER' win Screen Guild Awards". Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa): p. A11. 
  8. ^ a b "People". Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, California): p. A02. March 11, 1997. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Internet Movie Database staff (2009). "Awards for The Late Shift". Internet Movie Database., Inc.. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  10. ^ a b "1997 1st Annual SATELLITE™ Awards". International Press Academy (The International Press Academy and The SATELLITE™ Awards). 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael. "Dish: Fox backing off the gay buss", Variety, 21 April 1994.
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ "New York Times' Bill Carter at Work on a Late Shift Sequel". Gawker. 2010-02-11. 

External links


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