The Commercial Appeal
On TCM, heeeere’s Johnny!
Carson’s back, and Conan’s got him!
TCM has pretty much exhausted even Turner’s deep Hollywood library — running those vintage Warner Bros. and MGM shorts to fill time between the features — so they’ve looked outward to spot the Johnny Carson stash.
The legendary talk show host’s 20 years in Burbank pay off here. Sadly, his 30 Rock-based first decade of “The Tonight Show” (196272) is mostly lost. But TCM cannily repurposes Carson’s subsequent two decades from the West Coast beginning 8 p.m. Monday.
The initial hourlong episodes each offer five extended interviews, and you can see the editors’ minds at work: a mix of old stars and new(ish), TV actors; some quirky, too. TBS talker Conan O’Brien sets them up with smart intros to put each appearance in context. Then the master goes to work.
Now kids can see why their elders consider Carson the king. As Conan notes, he was “the most charming man in America,” filled with “playfulness and curiosity” and “a musician’s ear for tempo.” Carson and his show are much calmer than today’s talkers. And that relaxation — take note, current contenders — is precisely what sucks you into his thrall.
Carson really listens, and reacts in the moment. Watch his masterful first interview Monday night, with 7-year-old Drew Barrymore. Imagine his successors in the same situation. No comparison.