Emma Thompson is Katherine Newbury, a prime time talk show host who’s past her prime, and is asked to retire to let a man take her place. When she looks to bring fresh faces to her team of white male writers she hires Molly (Mindy Kaling), an inexperienced youngster who works in a chemical plant.
There are many sitcoms about the production of TV shows (Larry Sanders, Extras, Episodes, 30 Rock), and like those it’s shot like a sitcom, making it feel like a straight-to-Netflix film. Where it tries to set itself apart is by being about women in the male-dominated world of show business.
To survive, Katherine has built up a harsh exterior, surrounded herself with men, and is reluctant to talk about herself or her opinions. Molly on the other hand is idealistic and uncompromising, never declining to speak the truth.
In spite of being likable and benefiting from good performances by Thompson and Kaling, it always sounds like it’s reading from a script. The dramatic moments are predictable and the dialogue never lives up to the supposed wit of its characters, even in the comedy routines.
Where many fictional representations of the media take a satirical swipe at the industry, Late Night is rather idealised in its view. Aside from its comment on the demands placed on women it feels almost naive. For all its niceness it never manages to be a comedy with teeth, which is a shame for a film about a comedian rediscovering her radical edge.