On May 23, 1991, Johnny Carson stepped out onto the stage of New York's Carnegie Hall at the annual meeting of NBC affiliate stations - the final performer in the day's all-star lineup of NBC players, there to dazzle the affiliates with the power of the network's programming. But Carson had his own agenda: without any warning to his NBC bosses, he anunced that he was leaving the Tonight show - NBC's flagship late-night program, and the most profitable television show ever. Carson's motive for dropping this bombshell in front of NBC's most treasured - and needed - allies is only the beginning of one of the most incredible stories of corporate infighting and show business intrigues ever to play itself out on the soundstages and in the boardrooms of New York and Hollywood. Bill Carter, who covers the television industry for the New York Times, has uncovered the true behind-the-scenes story of two giant corporations - CBS and NBC - and two quirky comedians with dreams and ambitions of their own, David Letterman and Jay Le, fighting for the hor and the hundreds of millions of dollars that go with the abandoned late-night throne. It's a story that's as big as the manipulations of Hollywood's most feared power brokers and multi-million-dollar negotiators - and as personal as the effect on executives of being snubbed by a party invitation. Bill Carter interviewed all of the key - and dozens of t-so-key - players in this story to get the entire picture of posturing, infighting, hurt feelings, and political maneuvering that put NBC's biggest franchise at risk - and examines the fates of the executives whose wrongheaded decisions allowed it to happen. The Late Shift tells thenever-before-told story behind Johnny Carson's role in Letterman's decision to defect to CBS; the secret NBC documents that sealed the future of the Tonight show before Carson anunced his retirement; the bizarre story of Jay Le hiding in a closet to spy on a secret NBC staff meeting;
Bill Carter reports on the television industry for the New York Times and has written about television for more than seventeen years. He is co-author of the book Monday Night Mayhem. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a native of Brooklyn, New York, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.