Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, who has hosted her own late night Talk Show for the past 27 years (and is the only woman in the business). But her ratings have been in decline for years, and Katherine learns that she is on the edge of being replaced. Desperate for something to blame, she targets her all-male, all-white writers' room and demands her studio manager hire a female writer to shake things up.
Enter Kaling as Molly, a quality control specialist at a chemical plant with aspirations of being a comedy writer.
The film contains examples of:
- Cardboard Box of Unemployment: When Katherine fires Molly for a second time, Molly packs away her motivational posters and desk knickknacks in a bankers box - she even steals a "Tonight with Katherine Newburry" mug from the writer's room as a little act of rebellion, or perhaps as a souvenir of her time spent working for the show.
- Catchphrase: For Katherine: "I hope I've earnt the privilege of your time." It's mocked by her boss, but Katherine really means it. It's what motivates her to improve once she becomes aware of her show's quality problems.
- Female Misogynist: Katherine is accused of this, but she denies it. She's actually so insulted by the implication that she demands her assistant Brad hire a woman immediately, kicking off the plot of the movie.
- Insistent Terminology: Molly did not work in a factory. It was a chemical plant.
- Mean Boss: Katherine doesn't care about anything that isn't the show. She can't be bothered to learn her writers' names, so she assigns them numbers. She fires multiple writers for, basically, having any commitments outside of work. (She gets better, although not entirely.)
- Set Behind the Scenes: Of the titular late night show.
- The Smurfette Principle: Katherine is the only female host in late night TV. Molly is hired as the only female writer on the show.
- Talk Show: Tonight with Katherine Newbury
- Two Girls to a Team: The writers' room becomes this after Molly is hired and Katherine actually starts participating in the writing process.