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Late Night, when cinema goes behind the scenes of an American show

Job by Rosario Ligammari January 27, 2021

When cinema deals with television, it often results in scathing satires. The small screen is not spared by the big one. Late Night takes us behind the scenes of an American show through a writing team and more particularly through the turbulent relationship between a star host and her new recruit. Of course, the humor is there.

Late Night, the American show seen by the cinema

Late Night (Nisha Ganatra, 2019) immerses us in the world of writing television shows, a world necessarily unknown to the public. To revive her declining show, a star late show host (Emma Thompson) is forced to hire a certain Molly (Mindy Kaling), a woman of Indian origin who has absolutely nothing to see with her. Good news: the late show will then experience a new success.

Actress Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the film, was inspired by her own journey in the TV entertainment business. She is the first woman of color to have been part of the writing team of The Office (series created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and broadcast between 2005 and 2013). Before that, Kaling was an intern on several late-night shows, these American programs broadcast in the third part of the evening which mix humor and interviews. The actress specifies: “In the film, the authors are much less welcoming towards Molly than the scriptwriters of The Office”. Yes, because the least we can say is that the cinema is not always kind to the world of television…

When the big screen does not spare the small screen

The cinema has taken an interest in the backstage of television on several occasions: this of course makes it possible to show the back of a setting to which the spectators do not have access. And to give to hear what is supposed to remain “off”. Already in 1957, in A Man in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957), an animator gave the substance of his thoughts on several sensitive subjects, believing himself to be “off the air”; as much to say that his words would have done better not to leak. We still remember the Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994) which adapted a real fact from the 1950s about an American TV game suspected of cheating and corruption.

More recently, part of the film Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2009) took place on the set of the famous game Who wants to be a millionaire? as well as behind the scenes: the host (fictitious, of course), unsympathetic and manipulative, doing everything possible for the hero to lose. More serious, this year, Scandal (Jay Roach) resumed the case involving the president of Fox News, Roger Ailes, accused of sexual harassment against several journalists.

Behind the scenes of television seen with humor

Often behind the scenes, the tensions are palpable. This provides material for satires showing tasty massacre games, especially when it comes to power. One thinks of the acid comedy Mon Idole, Guillaume Canet’s first feature film released in 2002, which drew a cynical portrait of the boss of a large chain (played by François Berléand). In Featured Anchor: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2005), behind-the-scenes 70s television was treated with saucy, nonsensical humor – no wonder from Will Ferrell and his gang of troublemakers.

Quite close in genre, The Interview that kills! (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) depicted a TV producer and a talk show host in the middle of a murderous plot in North Korea: needless to say, the film was to be taken literally. Concerning Télé Gaucho (Michel Leclerc, 2012), it was about an “alternative” television. The good atmosphere reigned there in addition to an anarchist activism; even more than creating a television channel, the band wanted to make the revolution, camera in hand.

In Late Show, a whole team is responsible for writing acerbic texts for the presenter of said show. And the relationship between the latter and her new employee may be tense, but they are above all a pretext for comical situations. Behind the scenes, humor is therefore also omnipresent.

Late Night, available on CANAL+

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