Weekend Entertainment Guide

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TV: The Late ShiftThe new HBO movie about the network battle over Leno and Letterman arrives looking like something of a period piece. Based on Bill Carter's 1994 book, this is essentially the story of Letterman's victory: how he outsmarted the network suits and became the most sought-after personality in television. Since then, Letterman's show has dropped to third place in the ratings, while it's Leno who has the hot hand. Still, the film is more entertaining than one might have expected, says TIME's Richard Zoglin. "The backstage network shenanigans have been deftly digested, and the movie gives a good picture, in broad strokes, of how the TV business runs: badly, most of the time. John Michael Higgins does a good job mimicking Letterman's cigar-chomping crankiness, but he's too energetic. Daniel Roebuck has the chin (with the help of prosthetics), but turns Leno into a simpering moron." But the fatal flaw of "The Late Shift" is that its recreation of an television insider story seems the height of self-absorption. "'The Late Shift' is a parade of TV executives known to few in the audience, but all scrupulously identified onscreen as if this were a documentary on the Vietnam peace talks. (Look, it's John Agoglia, president of NBC Productions!) 'The Late Shift' is the ultimate in inside baseball."