The Johnny Carson Show

Film
Recommended
5 out of 5 stars
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT Carson, left, and James Arness plug the debut of Gunsmoke
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT Carson, left, and James Arness plug the debut of Gunsmoke

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

When NBC boneheadedly deleted virtually every pre-1970 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the host’s early material instantly acquired mythological status. This invaluable collection of 11 episodes of Carson’s short-lived 1955--56 CBS show (a daytime program later punted to 10pm) proves the legends aren’t exaggerated in the least. Largely a sketch comedy program, Carson’s first national showcase is loaded with nimble, understated bits that represent a dramatic break from the borscht belt sensibility that ruled American comedy before Lenny Bruce came along. Carson’s sardonic monologue persona emerges fully formed in the first episode—he clearly saw no need to fix what was never broken—and later episodes feature animal and audience-participation segments that have a freewheeling energy, reiterating his profound influence on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien. The near absence of celebrity interviews makes these two discs an abundant buffet that’s all dessert. — Andrew Johnston

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