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October 25, 2014

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Bill Carter Talks About 'The War For Late Night'

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 2nd 2010 11:00AM
Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno
Now that Conan O'Brien is back on the air and is churning out the comedy on basic cable, it's safe to say that the Second Late Night War is effectively over, or at least it's in a cease fire state. After all the recrimination, the back and forth between Jay Leno, NBC, and O'Brien, and the giggling of Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman from the sidelines, the only question left to ask at this point is a simple one: "What's next for late night?"

I asked Bill Carter, who has followed up his acclaimed 1994 book 'The Late Shift' with 'The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early And Television Went Crazy,' whether he thought the current late night talk show format, especially at 11:30, is on the decline. "Yes. There's no question," said the New York Times television reporter, who examines the current late night landscape in the new book, a story that culminates in Conan's dramatic exit from NBC last January.

The big reason? Money. Carter details in the book how the recently-dismissed head of NBC's entertainment division, Jeff Gaspin, told him that 'The Tonight Show,' even with Leno restored as its host, will lose money for the first time ever. "I was shocked," he said. "Because this thing used to be a money machine."

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Leno Had NBC Over a Legal Barrel, Says Bill Carter's New Book

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 28th 2010 7:00PM
Leno interviews Conan during happier timesAfter this past winter's Conan/Leno saga died down, most TV geeks (including us) were eagerly anticipating the other shoe to drop. And I don't mean the debut of 'Conan' on TBS, which is set for November 8.

No, what most of the people who followed this story thought to themselves was, "I can't wait until I read Bill Carter's book on this mess." After all, the New York Times media reporter wrote 'The Late Shift,' which is considered by many to be the definitive tome on the First Late Night War between Leno and Letterman. So he was in a unique position to write about the inside scoop of how the Second Late Night War went down.

Well, the wait is over, as Vanity Fair has published an excerpt of Carter's 'The War For Late Night,' which Viking will release next month. The excerpt details NBC's January decision to cancel Leno's 10PM show, move him back to 11:35, and push back Conan to 12:05.

Not much in the six-page excerpt is all that news-worthy -- it gives a dramatic narrative to events that most people who followed the story know about already. But one tidbit about Jay Leno's contract with NBC was revealed in the piece: His contract had put NBC over a legal barrel, giving Leno the leverage to sue the network if he was taken off the air.

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Tom Bergeron: A Man's Guest Spot Is His 'Castle'

by Michael Maloney, posted Apr 9th 2010 9:07PM
'Dancing With the Stars' main man Tom Bergeron is playing Bobby Mann -- a late night talk show host who gets canceled permanently on the April 12 episode of 'Castle,' which airs on ABC immediately after the 'DWTS' two-hour performance show. It's up to series star Nathan Fillion and his TV detective partner, played by Stana Katic, to find out who killed Bobby.

AOL spoke with Bergeron, who weighed in on 'Castle,' the current -- and arguably most-talked about -- cast of 'Dancing With the Stars,' and how he handles those pesky TMZ.com interviews.

Read the interview after the jump.

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'The Late Shift 2': Who Should Play Whom?

by Danny Gallagher, posted Feb 15th 2010 11:06AM
News that New York Times reporter Bill Carter is working on a pseudo-sequel to his groundbreaking book The Late Shift' made a smile creep across my face. I haven't yet read the book, but the buzz it caused and the weird stories that came out of it just by word of mouth gave it an aura of mysterious wonder that made the television industry infinitely more fascinating than it already was.

It also spawned a pretty decent made-for-TV HBO movie. Now I don't know what kind of craziness "Round Two" has to offer, but the players involved are definitely going to have all sorts of wild secrets revealed from Carter's work and when it does, HBO is going to want the movie rights. So here's who should play who in this new tragic merry-go-round of television programming hilarity that shall be called 'The Late Shift 2'.

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New 'Late Shift' Book in the Works

by Bob Sassone, posted Feb 11th 2010 1:26PM
The Late ShiftIf you've never read the 1994 book 'The Late Shift' by New York Times media writer Bill Carter, you've missed one of the great television books. It's a fascinating, odd, and most importantly, true (truth really is stranger than fiction when it comes to late night) look at the late night wars (the first one, not the second) that happened after Johnny Carson left 'The Tonight Show.' Now Carter says he's working on a sequel.

Carter told Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's 'Countdown' (video after the jump) that he couldn't tell him everything about what's going on in late night because he had to leave something for the book. He then said a sequel was in the works. If it's anything like the first one it will be a must-read.

'The Late Shift' was made into a goofy but entertaining film starring John Michael Higgins as Dave and Daniel Roebuck (Arzt on 'Lost') as Jay.

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Letterman speaks up for Leno

by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 3rd 2008 2:02PM
Letterman deskWhile NBC is carefully plotting Jay Leno's exit from The Tonight Show, David Letterman is talking about staying on the CBS Late Show beyond 2010. And since the subject of Leno came up, Dave thinks the guys at NBC are nuts to treat Jay the way they are, especially since he's done such a great job in the 11:30 slot. Letterman even said he wants Jay on his show the day after his Tonight Show tenure ends.

Letterman, who was once the heir apparent to Johnny Carson's desk but was passed over in favor of Leno, has thrived on CBS even though he was crushed to lose The Tonight Show. The supposed feud between Letterman and Leno, and their competition for The Tonight Show, was depicted in the HBO film (and Bill Carter book) The Late Shift. (If you've never seen it, buy or rent it; it's one of the best films ever about how TV works behind the scenes.)

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Is Kevin Reilly finally gone from NBC?

by Joel Keller, posted May 29th 2007 9:38AM
Kevin ReillyIt's a rumor that's been going around Hollywood for years; heck, we even mistakenly thought this was going to happen last year. But now it looks like NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker has finally had enough and is replacing the president of NBC Entertainment, Kevin Reilly.

Over the weekend, Nikki Finke of LA Weekly reported on her blog that Reilly will be replaced by two people: producer Ben Silverman, whose company brought The Office and Ugly Betty to the U.S., will be in charge of the entertainment side and Marc Graboff, currently NBCU Television's West Coast chief, will run the business side. Bill Carter of The New York Times is also reporting on the change, but in a less definitive manner.

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NBC news: goodbye Scrubs, hello Lipstick Jungle

by Bob Sassone, posted May 11th 2007 2:38PM

ScrubsNews about NBC's fall schedule continues to trickle out, this time from Bill Carter over at the New York Times.

Looks like the network is going to pick up five dramas: Lipstick Jungle (from Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell), Chuck, Life, Journeyman, and The Bionic Woman. The network has not made a decision on Law and Order or Law and Order: CI yet, but it looks like Friday Night Lights is coming back for a full season.

The shows being canceled? No surprise that Studio 60, The Black Donnellys, and Crossing Jordan are gone, but it's a little bit of a surprise that Scrubs isn't coming back. There's been talk that ABC might take the show, but no official word on that yet.

NBC's upfront announcement is this Monday.

Update: Nikki Finke is reporting that Scrubs has been picked up by NBC, but no other info is available about it.

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Another celebrity feud: George Lopez vs. Jay Leno

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 25th 2007 9:21AM

LenoNow someone in Hollywood has confirmed what I've thought for several years.

George Lopez, comedian and star of his own ABC sitcom, told Florida radio station WOMX hosts Scott and Erica that Leno is "the biggest two-faced dude on TV," and went on to call him a back-stabber. He also said that Leno was bad at interviewing his guests.

Anyone who watches Leno knows that Lopez is right. He's an awesomely bad host, mumbling through introductions, laughing at his own jokes, and rushing through everything so fast he must want to get the hell out of there so he can either go home and write more jokes or maybe play with his car collection. In fact, the whole show is a mess, from the addition of Stuttering John as announcer to Leno's "bits." As for the back-stabbing accusation, I can't speak to that, except to say that everyone should read Bill Carter's book The Late Shift and find out about the Leno vs. Letterman Tonight Show feud.

[via TV Tattle]

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Holiday loot spending guide: Books

by Bob Sassone, posted Dec 26th 2006 8:44AM

Hello, Lied The AgentLike a lot of people, I'll be out there today spending cash and gift cards I got yesterday. There are a lot of TV-oriented books released every year, and many of them are quite good. Some of them are downright terrible (*cough* TWOP *cough*), but let's focus on the good ones. Below is a list of 10 great TV books to give the TV addict in your family.

1. Hello, Lied The Agent, by Ian Gurvitz: Excellent behind-the-scenes look at how the TV industry works, from a writer/producer of such shows as Wings, Becker, and Get A Life. He talks about the dos and don'ts for Hollywood writers, pitch meetings, cancellations, shows the journal he kept a few years ago, and even talks about the new shows that have debuted in the past couple of years. Very informative and just really, really funny.

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Nobody's Watching may get a new life because of YouTube

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 3rd 2006 9:23PM
Nobody's WatchingIn today's New York Times, Bill Carter recounts the journey the pilot for Nobody's Watching took from network reject to YouTube hit. In the article, Carter interviews co-creator Bill Lawrence (who is the genius mastermind behind my favorite show, Scrubs) who describes how the WB came very close to picking up the pilot after NBC rejected it, but turned it down after the dreaded test-screening panel thought it's "sitcom about two guys who write a sitcom and live on sitcom sets" might be too confusing.

Since the video of the pilot was posted on the video site, it's been viewed over 300,000 times and has gotten very good feedback from viewers. Because of this, it's getting another look by various networks, including Comedy Central and ABC. But since NBC owns the show, it still has the first shot at it. And the show with which NBC is thinking of pairing Lawerence's baby? You guessed it -- Scrubs.

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Desperate Networks is a must-read for TV fans

by Bob Sassone, posted May 4th 2006 10:59AM
Desperate NetworksBill Carter wrote one of my favorite media/entertainment books, The Late Shift (about the Letterman/Leno battle for late-night), and now he's back with an even more ambitious book, Desperate Networks. It explains how we got the TV landscape that we have today, from all the reality shows to how Les Moonves got to the head of CBS to Katie Couric's negotiations to leave NBC. It's a fascinating read, with many interesting revelations, including:

1. ER was originally set in Boston, but NBC already had St. Elswhere set there, so they asked for the setting to be changed. Chicago was chosen "for no especially good reason."

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Late Shift author explores historic 2004-05 season in new book

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 24th 2006 7:35PM
Desperate Networks coverOne of my all-time favorite books is The Late Shift, a blow-by-blow account of the machinations involved in the late-night wars of the early 1990s. Bill Carter of The New York Times put together such a vivid picture of the battle between NBC, Jay Leno and David Letterman, I almost thought I was there during the book's pivotal scene: Leno, in a supply closet next to an NBC boardroom, eavesdropping on NBC executives as they discuss dumping him in favor of Letterman, even though he had been hosting The Tonight Show for only a few months.

Hopefully, Carter can bring his sense of "you are there" style to his latest book, Desperate Networks, which is due out on May 2. In the book, Carter explores the eventful and historic 2004-05 season from a few different angles: the fall of NBC, the slow-and-steady rise of CBS, the great new ABC shows that came on the air (Lost, Housewives), the retirement/departures of all three network anchors, and that nutso FOX network. The publisher's blurb on Amazon promises that Carter will be giving readers a lot of behind-the-scenes dirt, so I'm looking forward to getting this book. Is a TV Squad book review in the cards...?  We'll see...

[via Variety.com]

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