Based on the non-fiction best-seller, The Late Shift is an irreverent, behind-the-scenes look at the conflict over who would succeed Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno or David Letterman. Beginning with Carson's retirement, the made-for-cable film follows the backstage manueverings of both camps. When NBC chooses, Letterman refuses to lose quietly. Hosting The Tonight Show has been his life-long dream, and he is willing to do whatever it takes, even hiring an agent, to get what he wants. Indeed, Letterman soon finds himself working with ultra-powerful Hollywood agent Mike Ovitz and receiving huge offers from competing networks. Meanwhile, NBC has more trouble with the Leno Tonight Show than expected, thanks to Leno's manager Helen Kushnick (Kathy Bates). Kushnick's acerbic, foul-mouthed manner and increasingly petty behavior infuriates the higher-ups at NBC -- so much so that some suggest they give the show to Letterman after all. A series of intense negotiations follows, under the shadow of ludicrously frenzied media attention. While the presentation of both Leno and Letterman (played by unknowns Daniel Roebuck and John Michael Higgins, respectively) is fairly sympathetic, the film is far-less charitable to Kushnick and NBC executives.