The six-episode docuseries, premiering on CNN Sunday night, was made with The Late Shift author Bill Carter as executive producer with the intention of providing a historical deep-dive into the history of late-night television. “It’s the story of America and what we laugh at, how we laugh at it, how this amazingly organic American art form came to be," says showrunner John Ealer, a veteran of The Men Who Built America. "That’s a really unique and interesting story, and by looking at the historical context, not by dwelling on it, it helps us explore things, important issues in America across time and how we laugh at things, and how that has changed and how we’ve turned to these amazing hosts in this format that has become amazingly resilient and reliable, and what it means to America from the times of Robert Kennedy’s killing to Covid.”
Bill Carter says if he was in charge of late-night, he'd put a woman on "really fast": "Because I just think that’s terrible," says The Late Shift author, CNN contributor and executive producer on The Story of Late Night. "I mean Lily Singh is on NBC but she’s on in the middle of the night really crazy late," he says. "And I would really pay attention to Amber Ruffin, I think she’s fantastic. I would probably try to change up the format where you just bring on guests and promote their next movie or something but that’s really a driver to why you get big name guests to come on. I’d just mix it up a little more. I’d probably put more comedy in the middle of the show. Conan (O’Brien) did a lot of this by the way. He played with the format brilliantly in his NBC years. But I just want that and I’d always be looking for fresh voices for sure."
The Story of Late Night beautifully captures the essence of post-late news TV: "As the series underscores time and again, from the beginning, late-night TV has always been more provocative, more controversial and looser than daytime and primetime TV," says Richard Roeper. "It’s a reflection of human nature: sunny and relatively hopeful in the morning, winding down in the evening, open to something a little darker in the deep of night."