The Late Shift - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Late Shift Reviews

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April 23, 2017
It's fine, I guess, and it definitely screams TV movie. Higgins is actually pretty great as Letterman, but Roebuck as Leno, uh, not so much.
June 8, 2015
An interesting but ultimately not perfect behind the scenes story of the first NBC late night disaster. Kathy Bates is excellent as Jay Leno's manager, who plucked the comic out of obscurity and made him Johnny Carson's permanent guest host. Over time, her abrasiveness ensures that Leno - and not David Letterman, who hosted the 12:30am show after Carson for a decade - would succeed Carson. She's the villain, but could have ultimately been an even more sinister and obsessive character that she was. Even more, Leno - played by Daniel Roebuck - could have been more of a wuss than he was displayed on the screen. John Michael Higgins - who currently stars in Pitch Perfect and many other comedies - is incredible as Letterman, who is portrayed as a man constantly unsure of himself, but deserving of Carson's seat. I wish there was more of that as well. That's the big problem of the film, that it could have pushed their characterizations further. I would honestly like if HBO made "The War For Late Night", the sequel based on the 2010 Tonight Show disaster that left Conan O'Brien without a job.
½ February 22, 2015
Cathy Bates shows off her chops in a pretty good little look at the jockeying that went on to replace Carson.
March 19, 2013
A good movie about what happened behind the scenes of Jay Leno getting the Tonight Show over David Letterman.
September 10, 2012
Many years later, after the wash up of the Conan/Leno battle has subsided, watching the behind-the-scenes shenanigans from the Letterman/Leno/Carson round-table seems positively prophetic. I really enjoyed this, mostly because I thought that John Michael Higgins performance as Letterman was spot on. It does err on Letterman's side of the story, whilst painting Leno as more of a victim of circumstance than the bad guy (which he certainly is synonymous with now), it's Letterman that gets the heroic finale. In the end it's NBC that is the ultimate evil, history would again repeat. A great little film for fans of the late nite antics.
Super Reviewer
February 14, 2012
The source material far exceeds this depiction that comes off more like a bad morning news dramatization. Those truly interested in the rich history of late night would be better off reading Bill Carter's book and other existing texts.
½ December 17, 2011
quite enjoyable, great acting - surprised how close they came to the actual people. nice to see what happened behind closed doors. time for a sequel?
½ December 11, 2011
quite enjoyable, great acting - surprised how close they came to the actual people. nice to see what happened behind closed doors. time for a sequel?
½ October 23, 2011
I learned a lot about Jay Leno and David Letterman through this film.
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2011
OK, I am adding this movie to my Hollywood Confidential list, even though it's not about a crime. It's about how David Letterman cam to leave NBC for CBS, and it's really interesting and well done.

Now someone needs to make a movie about how NBC tricked Conan into breaking his contract, so they could replace him with Jimmy Fallon. Oh you think all of that happened the way NBC says it did? Now who's being naive?
April 7, 2011
While the portrayals of Leno and Letterman both border on SNL caricature, the story here is absolutely fascinating. I love behind-the-scenes show business stuff, and this movie delivered what I was looking for.
August 28, 2010
Not terrible, considering its made for TV. Main complaints are that it made Jay Leno too likeable, Letterman too modest, and villainized Leno's agent even more than she probably deserves (Though Kathy Bates definitely kicks ass in the role). John Michael Higgins' Lettterman impression is not too bad, but whatshisname sounds more like Adam Sandler than Jay Leno.

It's got me intrigued, and I'm going to look into the book. I understand that its a more factual, less dramatacized telling of events.
March 16, 2010
Decently entertaining dramatization that has become increasingly interesting in light of recent events. Higgins does a good job of capturing Letterman, but the guy playing Leno isn't nearly as good. Not that it matters too much, as Kathy Bates' Helen Kushnick is the real star here, and what an insufferable bitch she is. Leno is shown here to be innocently naive for the most part so it's tough to imagine Jay doing this sort of thing again without Helen. Maybe he wasn't so innocent after all.
February 26, 2010
This explains a lot to why NBC truly means "Never Believe your Contract". This was very enjoyable and I thought it was well cast. I still believe that Leno was always better than Letterman and has clearly proved to be just that from the ratings.
February 19, 2010
Okay, it's a TV movie, so it's not great. But after reading the book, I was curious to see it...I think it's a pretty decent adaptation. The guy who plays Leno is a little wooden (and his face...a little plastic), but John Michael Higgins, despite Letterman's many years of protestations that "that guy doesn't look anything like me!", gets his imitation pretty spot-on if you ask me. And Kathy Bates is freakin' awesome. (If you read the book, yes, the person she played really was that psycho.)
February 18, 2010
A coles notes version of the book, but decent enough at showing you the behind the scenes chaos at NBC around the end of Carson's reign. The dude playing Leno was pretty horrid, which could be explained away with the awful make-up and bizarre accent he chose. The guy playing Letterman was ok though, even with not really looking like him at all. Overall a decent little flick.
February 15, 2010
Because of this whole NBC travesty that's taking place, I decided to give this HBO film a look. Nicely done, Kathy Bates is hilarious and evil in this as Leno's agent. Daniel Roebuck as Leno was pretty annoying because his voice was over exaggerated and just got in the way. John Michael Higgins however was perfect as Letterman, a great casting choie. After watching this it just makes me hate NBC even more. It was fun seeing a few of the Christopher Guest cast together in this film.
½ February 10, 2010
Extra star for John Michael Higgins' amazing performance as David Letterman. The movie itself was just OK
January 25, 2010
We have now seen that NBC did not learn from the past. This great HBO docu-drama outlines the first war for The Tonight Show that set Leno against Letterman. Hopefully they will make a sequel to this to cover the recent CoCo vs. Leno madness!
January 24, 2010
This movie is about the rivalry of Jay Leno and David Letterman as the successor of "The Tonight Show" in 1992.
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