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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

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  •  
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 11-24-10
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 11-24-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Great Story"

    This is the story of NBC's attempt to move Jay Leno into prime time and Conan O'Brien into the "Tonight Show" and what a story it is! Bill Carter has produced a page turner infused with insight into the personalities involved, the issues driving the process, and the decline of a major network. The book is really dazzling when Carter reports Leno's crash and burn first in a media stand-up routine and then in the ratings for his new program. Leno comes across as a well meaning individual given the blame for O'Brien's demise. Some may well come away with the impression that Conan O'Brien was shorted and I tend to agree. Actually, O'Brien just might have been the wrong comic at work in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ultimately, this is a very informative book. The writing is Bill Carter which is just electric at times and the reading is exceptional. It is an eye opener on a number of levels.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Vaudreuil, QC, Canada 07-06-11
    David Vaudreuil, QC, Canada 07-06-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Excellent"

    Never knew the whole story of the late night debacle of NBC, this is an excellent road map to what made headlines and kept me watching as it unfolds. I loved this story and the narration

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brett SEATTLE, WA, United States 02-16-11
    Brett SEATTLE, WA, United States 02-16-11
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    "Very entertaining book, excellently narrated"

    I heard the author on Sound of Young America talking about the book and was interested, but listening to this book far more entertaining than I ever imagined. I rarely watch late night TV, but getting this inside view of how the different characters interact and the demands of the business was very interesting. The author had so much inside information, I would have believed this was a novel. The story he weaved together was very compelling and hard to put down.

    The book is excellently narrated. The fact that there are parts of comedy routines in the book made for some good chuckles, but the narrator did such a great job (not trying to do impressions, but just giving a subtle indication who is speaking) that the book is even better as a result.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    zrer10 Knoxville, Tn United States 03-09-11
    zrer10 Knoxville, Tn United States 03-09-11 Member Since 2010

    zrer10

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    "Great Behind The Scenes"

    The behind the scenes of late night has always been more interesting then the actual shows themselves.
    Lets face it, these guys tell the same canned jokes 5 days a week for 30 years and get paid more in a month then many of us will make in our entire lives. There is nothing wrong with that, creating comedy is difficuly on a daily basis but the egos of these guys is pretty rich. It is hard to believe they think of themselves as 'Comic Geniuses' and revolutionaries in the art of having a monkey sit on their heads.
    Although personally I prefer the comedy of Conan, having heard the behind the scenes story I am actually now more sympathetic to Leno... who at least knows its a business and treats it as such.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Faye Perata 06-18-14
    Faye Perata 06-18-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Team COCO for Life!"

    I remember watching the late shift movie about when Leno (I even hate typing his name) usurped Letterman for the Tonight Show. While I love Letterman, Conan became my guy almost from the beginning. This book gave me an in depth look at the late night drama I was seeing unfold on TV with my guy and some of the juicy history. It was really cool to read something about something I was so invested in. I was in the audience on is second night at The Tonight Show when he got his nickname from Tom Hanks and was there for the rally that protested him going off the air during his last week.

    If you have any love for a late night host - Jimmy, Craig, Letterman, Fallon, Corbert,etc. then you should check this out. It gives you a behind the scene look at what was going on and history about all the hosts at the time. I loved it!!

    I really wish they would add LATE SHIFT cause I would love to read that too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Messarati 10-28-13
    Messarati 10-28-13
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    "Kept me up!!!"
    Where does The War for Late Night rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of top audio books that I have listened to.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked learning the behind the scenes of what we all knew at the time.


    What about Sean Kenin’s performance did you like?

    He kept a good speed, sometimes a little too fast but I think the tempo also contributed to the excitement; you wanted to know what happened next.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Where Leno asked if he can call Conan and was told not to but afterwards, this was used against him by Conan.


    Any additional comments?

    I was glad to know that Leno never orchestrated any of the events or the ensuing drama that unfolded. I hope that he and Conan now knowing how everything went down can work things out. But then again, who knows what other versions of the story is out there.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacob 11-30-12
    Jacob 11-30-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Conan/Leno saga in great detail"

    If you are interested in the Conan/Leno saga, this book is for you. The book also touches on various other late night talk show hosts you may be familiar with. Narration was spot on!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bernie Athens, GA United States 10-08-12
    Bernie Athens, GA United States 10-08-12
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    "Great story, great format."
    If you could sum up The War for Late Night in three words, what would they be?

    Gripping. Entertaining. Interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    Great narration and excellent source material. The book presents an exciting and balanced take on a fresh topic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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
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