The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy

The War for Late Night When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy 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

  • Title: The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy
  • Author: BillCarter
  • ISBN: 9780670022083
  • Page: 125
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 predicA 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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    About "BillCarter"

    1. BillCarter

      William J Carter joined The New York Times as a national media reporter in 1989 In addition to his work for the newspaper, Mr Carter has written numerous articles for The New York Times Magazine, including four cover stories.Mr Carter has covered the television industry for over 25 years From 1975 until 1989, he was a television critic for The Balti Sun, writing four to six columns, reports and features per week, as well as a weekly television sports column From 1973 to 1975, Mr Carter was assistant foreign editor at The Sun, substituting at times as foreign editor, national editor and news editor.Mr Carter s articles have also appeared in TV Guide, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Sun Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Newsday, Advertising Age, The Washington Journalism Review and Electronic Media.He has been a guest on many television and radio programs including, Nightline, Today, Good Morning America, The Larry King Show, ESPN Sports Century, and The MSNBC News with Brian Williams.Mr Carter is the author of the 1994 best selling book, The Late Shift Letterman, Leno and the Network Battle for the Night He is also the co author of the 1987 book Monday Night Mayhem The Inside Story of ABC s Monday Night Football In 2006, Mr Carter published the book Desperate Networks a behind the scenes story of some of the biggest shows on television.Born in Brooklyn, N.Y on August 31, 1949, Mr Carter received a B.A degree in English from The University of Notre Dame in 1971 Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude and an M.A degree in journalism from The Pennsylvania State University in 1972 He is married and has two children 2006

    557 thoughts on “The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy”

    1. The Battle for Late NightPart Duex.Upfront, I'll admit this book probably deserves star number four…but it’s not going to get it because Bill Carter’s previous late night expose, Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night, was so compelling for me that this seemed too pale and watered-down by comparison. This second tussle over the captain’s chair of NBC’s The Tonight Show just didn’t have all the clandestine maneuvering and friend-eat-friend back-stabbing that [...]


    2. 3/21/13 - Floating this one to warn Jimmy Fallon.A Phone Conversation in 2020“Hello, this is Slick McGee, agent to the stars. How can I help you?”“Slick, it’s Garfield Lawlerly, president of NBC.”“Garfield! How are you? Why, I haven’t heard from anybody at NBC since your last scripted show Law & Order: Omaha went off the air.”“Yes, finding new scripted programs has been challenging.”“Really? FX, HBO, CBS, Showtime, AMC and a dozen other networks seem to find good shows [...]


    3. When I first heard about this book, I was still seething from when Jay Leno took the Tonight Show away from O'Brien after only seven months of some hit or miss shows. Funny thing, for whatever reason, my hatred of Leno blinded me to the sheer stupidity of NBC. When I was finished this book, I still disliked Leno but I realized I hated NBC more.There were some good points brought up here in defense of Leno, but there were also some points that made him look like a jerk. That being said, the book [...]


    4. I’m a Dave girl. I’ve been in the Letterman camp since I was twelve years old, and if you’re a late night junkie – like me – you know which camp you’re in. In truth, I would have liked for Leno to have been more appealing to my sensibilities. He’s from Massachusetts, after all. New Englanders like to root for the home team. We talk about people like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg as if we know them. And Leno’s gotten a lot of mileage from that blue collar work ethic, the anti-eliti [...]


    5. Here's what I learned from this book: Some things are more important than money . . . and sometimes that screws up everything. Because three men (Jay, Dave, and Conan) all believed that hosting The Tonight Show was more important than making tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars more money elsewhere. And three hosts can't be on one show. And the NBC people had no idea what to do about any of this, because they sincerely believed that throwing money at a problem will eventually fix [...]


    6. I enjoyed Bill Carter's The Late Shift when I read it over fifteen years ago, and I wanted to read his narrative of the 2009-2010 late night fiasco. While it was a quick read and mostly moved along quickly enough to hold my attention, I did not enjoy this nearly as much.In part, as Carter expressly recognizes at one point in The War for Late Night, the events of the early 1990s had a much more archetypical feel: Carson could be viewed as the retiring emperor, with Leno and Letterman (each with w [...]


    7. I haven't read the original book about the Letterman/Leno clash and its ramifications, but Carter's review of the Jay/Conan debacle offers a weird vision into a late-night world that its residents take way to seriously. What's neat is the way Carter at once deconstructs the archetypes and shows their validity. Jay fashions himself as an unpretentious, anti-industry workaholic who "just wants to tell jokes at 11:30" (a mantra that he apparently repeated over and over again throughout the process) [...]


    8. Apparently it took only seventeen years for everyone to compose themselves, relatively speaking. No one acts particularly egregiously, maybe because Helen Kushnick is no longer around. There's nothing here on the level of a paranoid Jay Leno eavesdropping in on a meeting of NBC execs from a nearby closet; in fact, as far as facts go, there's nothing new in the book at all to anyone who paid attention during that time when late night went crazy. So in a vanilla narrative, Bill Carter sketches in [...]


    9. I loved Carter's "The Late Shift" and was looking forward to reading this. In some respects, it feels like a retread of the same book, partly because of the subject matter and partly due to Carter's writing style. While the battle between Leno and Letterman sometimes took on Shakespearean overtones, the battles between Leno and Conan O'Brien doesn't have the same impact. The biggest problem is Carter's penchant for using unnamed sources. At lest 60 to 70 % of the quotes here are anonymous, intro [...]


    10. Right into the. Itty gritty as deep as they go. Loved it and learnt a lot, will take lessons out of this for sure


    11. In The War For Late Night, Bill Carter covers the second war for late night, between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien for The Tonight Show (the first being between Jay and David Letterman in the early 90s, the subject of Carter's The Late Shift). No journalist has had more access to all the major players involved, and he covers all of the events of the ham-fisted transition of Jay to Conan and back to Jay as host of Tonight during a seven-month period in 2009-2010.Unlike in The Late Shift, there are n [...]


    12. "Here's the thing," [NBC exec] Littlefied chimed in. "The [test show] tape's OK, but what kind of show would you do?"[Conan] leaned forward in his chair and, as though possessed by a demon, let fly:"Letterman's done irony. He did the anti-talk show. This show has got to have a different quality. I think the time is right for silliness. Dave's got that dignity and that personal space. My thing is, I don't really do that. I do silliness. We're going to do things like have plants in the audience-- [...]


    13. While certainly prompted by the Leno/Conan debacle of 2010, The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy actually picks up in 1992, where the author's seminal The Late Shift: Letterman Leno and the Network Battle for the Night left off. It is an excellent piece of reporting by New York Times scribe Bill Carter, punctuated by obvious, candid access to every major player. In many ways, I found this "sequel" to be a better read than the original -- perhaps the sources have [...]


    14. When the decision was made to broadcast Jay Leno in primetime, it solved 3 problems for NBC: one, it kept Leno at NBC, away from the lure of ABC; two, since Leno brought in big bucks for NBC, surely his show at 10PM weeknights would do the same, and, three, Conan O'Brien would still retain The Tonight Show. Simple, right?In a decision that sent shockwaves throughout all of television, The Jay Leno Show went on to become one of the biggest flops in television history. To satisfy the affiliates wh [...]


    15. As a huge fan of Conan O'Brien's, and someone who followed the saga of him getting screwed out of the Tonight Show, this was a fascinating book. Seeing how it all came together, and who made certain calls, it shed a lot of light on the whys and hows of Leno returning to Tonight (turns out his lawyers are just the best, and his contract was insane and unheard of, and it tied NBC's hands).The actual prose ping-pongs between the super dry just telling us what happened, and the author desperately ad [...]


    16. Bill Carter brilliantly chronicles one of television's most rough moments. What a crazy time with nervous executives attempting to appease a myriad of parties and egos, only to be burned in the end. The big takeaway for me is: It's business. Certainly good art should count for something, but the reality is that with the networks, it all has to sell in order to keep the product going. I believe that there's a good balancing act that can be achieved with good art and ratings. Maybe that's too opti [...]


    17. Disclaimer: I love Bill Carter and I find all of his books to be absolutely fascinating as I am obsessed with the television industry.If you're looking for some surprise ending, you don't need this book. We all know the basics of the late night debacle and how it all turns out. What this book provides is background on not just Leno & Conan, but every player in the late night business from the late night hosts [Letterman, Ferguson, Kimmel, Stewart, Colbert] to their producers to the network e [...]


    18. My friend Nick forced me to read this, and I'm glad he did. Carter did an amazing job covering the insanity of the (new) late night wars, with a smart look at all the major and minor players.It ends up being kind of an interesting view of art v. commerce. There's a lot to ponder over a subject I think of often: how much do you have to give up of what makes your art "yours" if you want to make money doing it? I mean, if I didn't want to get published I would write books that were split neatly bet [...]


    19. As a staunch member of Team Coco since long, long before the term existed, I went into this book already fully aware of many of the details and events laid out by Bill Carter. In this regard, there was nothing terribly new or shocking to be found. However, I have great admiration for the way in which Carter was able to weave the story and how all the different ends lead to the big explosion of January 2010. At times it had much the same feel as a political thriller, though ultimately no lives we [...]


    20. This book is really, really good -- and I say that as someone who has already heard more than a human being should about the late-night wars over the last year and a half. Carter has access that most journalists can only dream of, and it's not the most hard-nosed book you'll ever read (if it were, that access might dry up). But he does a great job, nevertheless, of illuminating what made this such a fascinating story, which is that everyone wound up being SO UNHAPPY in a situation in which every [...]


    21. I have never liked Leno. I have always thought his humor was mean spirited. Conan is hilarious, I really wanted to see him do well on The Tonight Show, and Letterman is one of the coolest dudes on the planet.This is the same author that wrote The Late Shift, about the Letterman/Leno train wreck to replace Johnny Carson. Now, a generation later, NBC has produced another train wreck, this time replacing Leno and the Tonight Show with Conan O"Brien, and then replacing him with -----Jay Leno. The wr [...]


    22. Written in a an objective fashion, it tells the recent tale of the war over "The Tonight Show", immortalized by Johnny Carson from the 1960's - 1990's on NBC. It picks up in the new century (and millenium) when Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien are slated to move into new roles - Jay to star in his own 1 hour comedy hour every night on NBC at 10:00 PM, and Conan to inherit Jay's place as the host of "The Tonight Show." I finished the book feeling justified in my "Team Coco" partisanship, but wish he co [...]


    23. An interesting expose of the whole 2009-2010 Tonight Show debacle. I was pissed at NBC at the time, but I'm actually kind of glad things turned out the way they did. Conan is a lot funnier on TBS than he (or Leno) was on the Tonight Show. Of course now I'm sort of worried about what's going to happen to Colbert when he takes over for Letterman. I still haven't seen Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, but I can only assume he's just as boring as he's always been.


    24. An absolutely fantastic book for those interested in learning more about the Conan/Leno debacle. The author did an excellent job of showing all sides of the issue/issues. I found it interesting to hear about the people behind the scenes.If you don't love late night television then the book will probably be too long for your taste. But, if you are a Conan/Dave/Jimmy Kimmel/Jimmy Fallon/Leno fan, this book will provide you with hours of entertaining reading.


    25. It was an interesting read. No fault of the author's but it was tough to follow at times simply because there were so many names and people involved, some of whom have similar names. Odd timing to be reading it, with the recent news(broken by Bill Carter) that NBC was looking to replace Leno with Fallon at the end of the current contact.


    26. I tore through this book in a couple of days -- I couldn't put it down. This will come as no surprise to anyone who read Carter's first book on the late night wars, or to anyone who's interested in the inner workings of TV during the latter days of its cultural primacy. Thought-provoking, even-handed, and impeccably researched.


    27. Excellent reporting, but genius writing. A truly gripping read that ends being somehow more important and more affecting than would think, considering the topic.


    28. Very engaging tale of the drama that went on behind the war for The tonight show. A must read for any late night fan for sure.


    29. Much ado aboutmething?Ah, yeah, January 2010. I'd been on Twitter for over a year at that point, and I was Team Coco. Despite the fact that I was European, had very little idea about what kind of a comedian Conan O'Brien was, and likely hadn't watched more than a handful of videos of him. Leno had once interviewed someone I liked and seemed incredibly lame, bland & clueless (esp. in comparison w/ my dear Craig Ferguson whose interviews & other segments I'd semi-regularly watch via a fan [...]


    30. Well, that whole thing was a hot mess. Remind me to never pursue a career in Hollywood or late night television. Carter makes clear where the errors were in trying to keep Conan and Leno at NBC, and the errors Conan, Leno, and NBC made in the process. I enjoyed how Carter at the end contrasts who financially "won" the War for Late Night (Leno and NBC), and who "won" in the court of public opinion (clearly Conan). Interestingly enough, I think the one person who makes it out of this book complete [...]


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