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HBO picks up ‘Late Shift’

After poking fun at the world of latenight TV with its fictional sitcom “The Larry Sanders Show,” HBO will take aim at the real thing.

The pay cable web has optioned the rights to “The Late Shift,” New York Times reporter Bill Carter’s book on the battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson as the king of latenight TV.

“The tone of the movie will be both comedy and drama,” said Robert Cooper, senior VP, HBO Pictures. “These are stories about powerful people, dealmaking andcraziness behind the scenes. The public will be interested.”

NBC declined comment on HBO’s intentions. Carter’s book did not portray the network and its executives in a flattering light — detailing indecision on the Peacock web’s part in its efforts to keep Letterman from jumping ship to CBS after Leno was handed Carson’s job.

HBO may endure the wrath of NBC for its efforts. The network is highly sensitive when it comes to copyrighted material (it threatened to sue if Letterman took the Top 10 List with him to CBS) and could make things difficult if HBO tries to use footage of either show or a likeness of the shows or Leno and Letterman in its production.

Carter will serve as a consultant to the movie. No writer, director or producer has been named.

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