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The War for Late Night | [Bill Carter]

The War for Late Night

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Bill Carter (P)2010 Penguin Audio

What Members Say

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4.4 (352 )
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  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 07-29-12
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 07-29-12 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

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    "So Cool It's Hot!"

    They say TV is a cool media. Bill Carter's astonishing research and powerful story telling talent have created a book to rival or maybe exceed Walter Isaacson's almost legendary bio on Steve Jobs! This is a dazzling tale of perhaps the end of a great era in broadcasting... late night network television broadcasting. If you thought you knew the ending of the Letterman/Leno/Conan/Kimmel/Stewart/Colbert/Chandler/Ferguson/Fallon duke-'em-out-after-11 PM saga... Well, you don't. Or at least you didn't know how all of their parts fit together through the inexorable pressures to deliver what business competitors need to survive.

    What's wonderful about Carter's talent is that every single character in this masterpiece is sympathetic. There are no villains of the piece... unless it's scarcity. The fact is that there is only one "Tonight" show slot. Only really room for three major contenders for a viable audience slice immediately after 11. And many more talented/balanced/nuanced human beings to manage and to fill the hole. Carter makes it clear that scarcity demands that choices be made. And the UN-chosen will always be disappointed along with his/her fans.

    This is a story of achievement and disappointment. that really ought to be read as an allegory for things well beyond TV, entertainment, the inter-generational clash of cultures, and Late Night. The message and the vehicle are huge.Bill Carter turns the cool medium's competition over a tiny portal to millions of homes into a hot message.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean Surrey, BC, Canada 03-23-11
    Sean Surrey, BC, Canada 03-23-11
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    "Compelling"

    Full of insider information, the author paints a seemingly complete picture, and he does it extremely well. I can only wonder what those who were actually involved would say...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sierra's Mom Idaho, United States 02-08-11
    Sierra's Mom Idaho, United States 02-08-11 Listener Since 2005

    Care

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    "I can't stop listening but please read slower"

    This subject is very interesting. I'm not a Late Night addict but I will watch if I am awake. I am old enough to remember Carson and then the battle of Leno and Letterman. I liked Leno in the early years. As time went on I thought he was boring. I use to try to stay up late just to watch Conan.
    I was surprised how in the book they said that Conan's fans were very young. And the people in their 50's, me, were Leno fans. Well they have that one wrong with me. I have always laughed more at Conan then Leno. Leno wasn't edgy enough. Conan did the unexpected, and I like that. He is creative.
    The audio book is great. I wish it was longer. I listen when I work on my computer, when I knit, I plug the ipod in my car to listen when I drive. This book has my interest that much that I take my ipod everywhere. I fall asleep at night with it on.
    It's a great story and I have to say that I am all for Conan. I think he totally got the shaft. He says, "what does Leno have on you guys?" No one answers that question but I wondered that too. I think Leno was getting dry and stale. It was time for him to leave. Why was NBC so bent on keeping him around? Probably because the contract Leno had with NBC. NBC would have had to pay millions for Leno to go away. It was the money. They didn't make this war for Leno's talent. Which I think lacked humor in all age groups.

    Con: The narrator reads too fast. There is so much good information that you need him to pause so you can digest it. I would pause my ipod just to think about what he just said. I did rewind a lot because of the huge amount of information being read. I think this guy could get a job as an auctioneer.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    royce Acworth, GA, United States 12-25-10
    royce Acworth, GA, United States 12-25-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Amazing background"

    This was one I could not put down. I like late night tv and was amazed at the detail Bill Carter put in to the behind the scenes. I'm still amazed Jay Leno was branded the bad guy when he was being pushed out in the top of his game. Carter does a good job showing all sides and not pointing fingers but giving the facts.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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    Rich Tinton Falls, NJ, United States 07-11-11
    Rich Tinton Falls, NJ, United States 07-11-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Narration is AWFUL"

    Interested in listening, but couldn't get through the awful narration. Get a better narrator...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Tina WASHINGTON, DC, United States 03-09-11
    Tina WASHINGTON, DC, United States 03-09-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Poor story-telling/narration."

    Granted, the book can't be too bad because it's about an interesting story. But for all that, it could have been both written and narrated in a much more interesting, gripping fashion. First of all, I disliked the narration. I found the pace a bit too quick and monotone to keep my attention.

    That aside, the story-telling is more or less chronological, sacrificing artful construction of the narrative, which could have been more compelling. So we wade through hours of scene setting, discussing every executive and minor player along the way. The meat of the story and main event comes much later in the book. Also, the book references quite frequently the Letterman/Leno debacle-- without fully exploring or explaining it. I still don't understand how Leno is to blame for that situation. So, all in all, I think there were opportunities to tell a better, more interesting story. But, on the other hand, all the details are there! You'll know a ton about minor players and minutiae.

    I don't think the above comments should keep any Leno/Conan fans from getting the book. The story sells itself. But it sure could have been better crafted/told.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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