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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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Customer Reviews

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By Roy on 11-24-10

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.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

By Ted on 07-29-12

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.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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