Wednesday, December 30, 2015
After a two-decade sabbatical, Johnny Carson is returning to television with nightly airings on Antenna TV (Channel 135 in the greater Poca-Rock Branch-Raymond City metropolis) beginning Saturday, January 1. (OK, being dead for the last 10 years is an excused absence.)
Carson did not create late night television, he perfected it. His timing was impeccable and his politics were private. Likely a liberal, Carson realized his job was to entertain, not indoctrinate. This gave him more influence than his successors could ever imagine, even Jay Leno.
“This is not a clip show. This is full episodes of Johnny Carson, the man that everyone in late-night agrees was the greatest host of all time, airing in real time as he did back in the day. Tuning in to ‘The Tonight Show’ is like taking a walk down Main Street in Disneyland. The minute you step in there, you feel good and you know it’s a place you want to stay. We cannot wait to bring this show to fans who remember Carson and to a new generation of viewers who have never had the chance to see Johnny in his prime,” Sean Compton, Tribune’s president of strategic programming and acquisitions, told Variety.
Antenna TV is owned by Tribune Media and like MeTV and a few similar networks serves as a second channel to local channels who get a second channel on the local cable network. The listing of its cable channels is here.
Carson took over "The Tonight Show" in 1962 after hosting the game show "Who Do You Trust?" on ABC. He brought along Ed McMahon and for three decades. His first year was a ratings dog, but he stuck with his format: A strong opening monologue, variety bits by singers and comedians, and an occasional skit. One of his funniest bits was when singer Ed Ames showed him how to throw a tomahawk Indian style; Ames is an Indian. The tomahawk hit the target of the outline in such a way that it looks as if he clipped the the target's penis.
After hemming and hawing for a few moments -- thinking of a line and building anticipation, Carson finally says, "I didn't know you were Jewish."
Everyone laughed as it did look like a circumcision.
It was those monologues that he is best known for. He hired good writers and worked hard to make his jokes seem spontaneous. Part of that credibility was his ability to think on his feet, as witnessed by his Tomahawk Line.
He did 90-minute shows from 1962 to 1980, when NBC trimmed it to 60 minutes. The 90-minute shows will air at 10 pm on Saturday and Sunday (repeated at 1:30 a.m.) and hourlong shows will run weeknights at 11 p.m. (repeated at 2 a.m.).
Antenna TV runs a lot of seldom seen old sitcoms -- I saw "My Mother The Car" and the first episode of "It's About Time" the other day -- and a few non-sitcoms, like "Burns and Allen."
Whether people will flock to hear old monologues about old news remains to be seen, but it could be ratings gold for a network that is so old fashioned that it relies on commercials for revenues rather than subscription fees (which is why your cable bills are so high).