New Late-Night Wars Miniseries in Development but It’s About Johnny Carson, not Conan O’Brien

     April 29, 2010


Battles over The Tonight Show have been going on for longer than you think.  Most people are aware of the drama that occurred between Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, which Bill Carter chronicled in his book, The Late Shift.  And we’re all well aware of the more-recent dust-up between NBC, Leno, and Conan O’Brien.  But Deadline reports that producers Kevin J. Cleary and Basil Iwanyk are currently working on a mini-series called The King of Late Night, which centers on “the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the development of the show and its first three hosts, Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.” Cleary says the project is “The Rat Pack version of The Late Shift,” and “will draw inspiration from other films made about the 1950s and 1960s TV industry like Quiz Show and Good Night, and Good Luck.”

While I know there are plenty of folks (myself included) who want a Late Shift-style expose about the drama between Conan O’Brien, I think this project could be very cool.  I’m sure we’ll see a chronicle of the Conan-Tonight Show drama, but let’s at least give that story some time to simmer and be properly researched before we’re jumping all the way to a mini-series.