TELEVISION: In the Kingdom of Letterman

After a smash Olympic performance, he is dominating late night. But he's not the same old Dave.

Now that the dust has settled, it all seems so obvious. Of course David Letterman was the logical person to take over the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson retired. Of course NBC made a mistake in betting on Jay Leno and letting Dave slip away to CBS. Of course Letterman's hip, edgy 12:30 a.m. sensibility could be adapted for a more mainstream audience at 11:30 p.m.

& And, of course, hindsight is easy. As Bill Carter reveals in The Late Shift (Hyperion; $24.95), his richly reported book on the network battle over Letterman, NBC's blunder was, if not excusable, at least...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!