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    The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

    The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

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    NBC (ended 1992)
    Six months after Jack Paar made a stormy departure from "The Tonight Show" (over jokes about Communism, among other issues) and viewers enduring a succession of "substitute" hosts (and an ill-fated attempt at a magazine-type show), NBC (and middle America) finally got the comedian they were waiting for. Johnny Carson – who had honed his craft on radio and daytime television, and to that point was best known as host of Who Do You Trust – made his debut as host of "The Tonight Show" on October 1, 1962. Thus began a love affair with America that lasted 30 years, not only making Carson wealthy and powerful, but earning him the title, "King of Late Night." It started out shaky. NBC built Carson a cheap set on the sixth floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, not thinking the show would last. Ed McMahon was less confident; he still lived in Philadelphia and commuted for the next three years. In 1962, "Tonight" began at 11:15 pm ET and lasted 105 minutes. By then, most NBC affiliates had inflated their late-evening newscasts to half an hour. It meant that, unless viewers tuned in on the NBC owned-and-operated stations in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles, chances are they missed Carson's monologue. NBC quickly moved the start time of Johnny's show to 11:30 pm ET to ensure everyone could see the best part of his domain. In 1972, the show moved from New York to NBC's West Coast headquarters, thus setting up countless gags about "beautiful downtown Burbank." For a number of years, NBC reran "Tonight" on weekends at 11:30 pm ET. These reruns, of course, didn't score nearly the ratings as the originals maintained. By the end of 1974, Carson told NBC to turn their late weekends to another program. NBC hired a young Canadian performer and writer named Lorne Michaels to develop (what would quickly become) the "Tonight" antithesis -- Saturday Night Live. Carson became the man with whom millions of Americans ended their day with a relatively simple formula: an opening monologue of topical (sometimes corny) humor. Johnny's stock in trade became his down-home, glib sense of humor and his natural wit. He possessed the knack of being equal parts L.A. hip and Midwest backward. However, he never mocked people or resorted to mean-spirited or cheap, off-color jokes; instead, he often poked fun at human nature and events of the day in such a way that made America know it was OK to laugh at themselves. The Carson Monologue became "must see TV," and to miss a night was leave one's self less than "in the know" at the water cooler the following day. On one occasion, a Carson joke about toilet paper shortage actually led to hoarding of the product by thousands of consumers. Following the monologue, viewers saw either a "desk bit" between Carson and McMahon, or a more elaborate, produced skit. Then, interviews and performances by a wide range of celebrities followed (some reports have Johnny's guest list at more than 20,000). Carson was often at his best while interviewing the "everyday" person, especially young children. Some of the notable skits and features: • Carnac the Magnificent – Debuting in 1964, Carson (wearing a jeweled and feathered turban) would "divine" answers to questions from "hermetically sealed" envelopes, a standard gag from Vaudeville. Example: "The answer is...Chicken teriyaki! The question..."What is the name of the last surviving Japanese kamikaze pilot?" • The Mighty Carson Art Players – Starting in 1967, this catch-all title featured parodies of movies, TV shows and commercials. Classic skits included a tongue-twisting take-off on Dragnet (1968, with Jack Webb); commercial parodies of E.F. Hutton (with a deceased Carson rising from a casket to "my broker is E.F. Hutton..."), American Express (with Carson as Karl Malden), Energizer Batteries (Carson as Robert Conrad), and various diarrhea commercial take-offs. Also under the "Mighty Carson" umbrella was the Tea Time Movie sketch, with Carson playing Art Fern, an oily afternoon movie host and commercial huckster. These sketches were full of double entendre humor, first featuring busty Carol Wayne as the straight foil, "the Matinee Lady." Following Wayne's drowning death in 1985, Teresa Ganzel was added. Other classic moments included Carson as President Reagan (and actor Fred Holliday) in a hilarious "Who's On First?"-style routine, and a duet with Julio Iglesias ("To All The Girls I've Loved Before"), with Carson giving a convincing Willie Nelson impersonation. • Floyd R. Turbo – The super-patriot who gave over-the-top editorials. Other memorable moments: • Falsetto-singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim on-air marriage to Miss Vicki (Vicki Budinger) on December 17, 1969. • Ed Ames infamous tomahawk throw demo, striking the outlined target squarely in the crotch. • The marmoset who relieved itself while poking around at Carson's head; plus other animals (brought on by frequent guests Joan Embery and Jim Fowler) who refused to behave or were just being themselves. • Potato chip collector Myrtle Young, who momentarily thinks Johnny has eaten one of her prized chips. Among the performers who owe (at least part) of the beginning of their careers to Carson: Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Drew Carey, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling, plus many others. Ironically, Letterman (a frequent "Tonight" guest host in the late 1970's) was Carson's first choice as his successor. Leno, however, had already been given the seat as "permanent guest host," following Carson's professional breakup with Joan Rivers (who had joined the up and coming FOX Network to do her own late night show in 1986.) Leno, though seen by some at NBC as "too ethnic looking," had the favor of NBC's West Coast executives, and was chosen over Letterman, whom NBC West saw as "too cranky and edgy" to replace the mild-mannered Carson. This was perceived as a final snub to Carson, and prompted Letterman to defect to CBS, and compete head to head against the show he'd always wanted to host. The entire "Tonight" endgame saga would be the subject of Bill Carter's book The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night (later turned into an HBO film, with Rich Little as Johnny). Carson's 30-year ride was hardly without its more tenuous moments, thanks to several contract disputes and his well-publicized failed marriages (he was thrice divorced during his run on the show). Carson's "alimony payment" jokes would become a staple of the show. Following much protracted negotiation (including talk of his leaving "Tonight"), Carson signed a new contract with NBC in 1980. Three stipulations in the deal: 1) "Tonight" was reduced from 90 minutes to 60; 2) Carson would dictate what kind of show NBC could run at 12:30 am ET. This meant replacing Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show with from Carson's stable. 3) Carson Productions was formed. Among its most heralded works was the show that followed "Tonight" -- Late Night with David Letterman. Carson Productions' other gift to NBC was a series of specials called Television's Greatest Commercials, hosted by Ed McMahon. McMahon was also a victim of a one-shot deal called Johnny Carson's Greatest Practical Jokes, in which Johnny had loaded the trunk of Ed's car with office equipment and taped Ed failing to get past NBC Security (and a guard named Carson). Both of these specials would merge with Dick Clark's running TV Censored Bloopers in January 1984, becoming TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes. In 1983, Carson Productions produced and distributed "Carson's Comedy Classics," a somewhat low-budget, 30 minute repackaging of "Tonight" clips, culled mainly from the years 1972-1982. Carson's lock on late night came into question in the late 1980's, likely precipitated by two events: the debut of The Arsenio Hall Show in 1989, and Dana Carvey doing a less-than-loving portrayal (with Phil Hartman as a one-note Ed McMahon) of Carson on Saturday Night Live. Carvey's "Johnny" was basically a dinosaur -- a relic clueless of pop culture and mired in "unhipness." In one of the more scathing takes, Carvey presented Carson as "Carsenio," giving his Johnny a wedge cut and Arsenio-styled suit. These less-than-flattening portrayals of Carson on SNL were seen by some as NBC giving tacit approval to the move to push Johnny out. Carson, during his last show, in thanking Doc and the band, would lament TV's loss of the "last big swing band," saying, "To say that this band is not 'hip' is to not know the meaning of the word." In 1991, as Carson was starting his 29th year, the "King of Late Night" announced in his usual no-big-deal style that he was retiring, expressing a desire to leave the show while still in his prime. His second-to-last show on May 21, 1992 featured just two guests: Robin Williams and Bette Midler, with Midler serenading Carson with "One for My Baby," a teary-eyed Carson taking in the moment. The final show on May 22, 1992 was a quiet and contemplative retrospective, featuring "a day in the life" on the Tonight Show set, and a tribute to his late son, Rick (who was killed in a car crash the previous June). Alone on a stool, in front of the familiar curtain, a tearful Carson bade his audience "a heartfelt good night," thus ending not only a show, but an era of television. With very few exceptions, Carson's "Tonight" departure was the last most people saw of their beloved late-night TV comic. Most notably: a voice appearance as himself on The Simpsons episode, 'Krusty Gets Kancelled,' and a pair of appearances on Late Show with David Letterman. Just prior to Carson's death, it was revealed that Johnny would occasionally give Dave an idea or two for his monologue, thus cementing the notion that Carson saw Letterman as his true late night heir. When Johnny Carson died on January 23, 2005, America mourned the passing of a late-night legend. Jay Leno devoted his January 24, 2005 show to his predecessor (though it should be noted, Leno read a prepared "tribute" from cue cards). On the show were Ed McMahon, Drew Carey and Carson's close friends Bob Newhart and Don Rickles, all providing their remembrances. Letterman's first new show following Carson's death featured longtime "Tonight" executive producer Peter Lassally and a performance of "Here's That Rainy Day" -- one of Johnny's favorites -- by bandleader Doc Severinsen, with NBC Orchestra mates Tommy Newsom and Ed Shaughnessy. Thanks to TV Tome contributors Brian Rathjen & doppelgänger.moreless
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    Dean Martin Celebrity Roast

    Dean Martin Celebrity Roast

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    NBC (ended 1984)
    In 1973, The Dean Martin Show was declining in popularity. So for the 1973 - 1974 season, a new feature called a "roast" was added to try to pick up the ratings. The roasts seemed to be pretty popular among television audiences. So after the show was cancelled in 1974, NBC drew up a contract with Dean to do several specials and do more roast specials. Enter The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. Starting with Bob Hope in 1974, the roast was taped in California and turned out to be a hit, leading to many other roasts to follow. In the fall of 1974, the roasts moved permanently to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. From 1974 until early 1979, in the hotel's Ziegfeld Room, stars like Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Joan Collins, and many others were roasted.moreless
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    The Jerry Springer Show

    The Jerry Springer Show

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    The Jerry Springer Show is probably most known for its foul mouths, excessive fighting, excessive nudity and wacky stories. Nearly every episode, if not all, have at least one bleeped over foul word. Then there's the sound effects. A clanging bell indicates it's time for a fight! Whenever a fat woman shows her boobs, the sound of a cow going "MOO!" is heard. Even the audience gets into it! Women show their boobs to get "Jerry Beads". Whenever a touching good moment happens or an audience member asks a goody goody logical question, the audience chants, "Go to Oprah"! TV Guide voted The Jerry Springer Show as the "Worst Show In The History of Television." A new UK version will soon be airing on ITV1 for 4 weeks after the UK's talk show queen Trisha Goddard left ITV to present her new five show Trisha Goddard.moreless
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    The Rosie O'Donnell Show

    The Rosie O'Donnell Show

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    (ended 2002)
    The Rosie O'Donnell Show was one of the most loved daytime talk shows. Hosted by Rosie O'Donnell, viewers tuned in every week-day to watch what guests she would have on the show, and what would happen next. From Koosh Shooters to worth-while charities, the Rosie Show had it all!moreless
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    Entertainment Tonight

    Entertainment Tonight

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    Welcome to the Entertainment Tonight guide at tv.com. ET is a daily, half-hour, nationally syndicated entertainment newsmagazine, reporting on breaking news events, exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes first looks, and Hollywood's hottest stories from the worlds of film, television, fashion, literature and interactive media.moreless
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    The Best Sex Ever

    The Best Sex Ever

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    Cinemax (ended 2003)
    Welcome to The Best Sex Ever guide at TV.com.

    This adult anthology series from Cinemax, revolving around the sexual exploits recounted by listeners of a fictional radio call-in show, ran for two seasons.moreless
  • 47
    American Greed

    American Greed

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    CNBC
    American Greed is an original business documentary television series from CNBC that examines the some of the biggest corporate and white collar crimes in the United States. Companies such as Tyco, Enron, HealthSouth, and WorldCom, that have exploited hard working Americans out of their equity investments, retirement funds, and employment due to corporate lavish spending and lack of oversight. In addition to profiling these high profile cases, American Greed covers stories about more common crimes such as medical fraud, money laundering, Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, insurance fraud, and murder. Host Stacy Keach narrates how each case started from beginning to end, with dramatizations, interviews with real life victims, and evidence recovered by respective agencies in charge of bringing each perpetrator to justice. American Greed, some people will do anything from money.moreless
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    The Dick Cavett Show

    The Dick Cavett Show

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    ABC (ended 1986)
    During the late 60's and early 70's, The Dick Cavett Show was beloved by critics and hailed as an intelligent alternative to the other more frothy interview shows. In addition to the standard-fare of celebrities, he often booked controversial and opinionated guests like Gore Vidal, Timothy Leary and Georgia's segregationist governor Lester Maddox. This occasionally led to fireworks between the host and guests: Maddox stormed off when he was asked to defend his views; Cavett once said to a condescending Norman Mailer, "Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine?" His late-night series also booked musical guests that shows like Tonight and Merv tended to ignore, namely rock acts. Now-legendary performers like Ravi Shankar, Paul Simon and Sly Stone appeared to sing and chat. Cavett was occasionally able to devote a whole show, or more, to one guest. This yielded memorable interviews with the likes of Groucho Marx, Katharine Hepburn, Lawrence Olivier and Orson Welles. Cavett also held the distinction of being the only show to have a guest die during it. Organic farming advocate J.I. Rodale had moved "down the couch" after his interview. Cavett, assuming he had dozed off during the chat with the next guest, asked, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?". Rodale had passed away from a heart attack; the show did not air. Despite the acclaim, his series were chronically plagued with low ratings, coming in a distant third place to Carson and CBS. First was a 90-minute weekday program on ABC daytime called This Morning, Dick Cavett, airing from March 4th 1968 to January 1969. This was followed by a Monday/Tuesday/Friday ABC prime-time series from May-September 1969. Next came his best remembered program, the late-night ABC series airing weeknights from December 1969-December 1972. Beginning in January 1973, that series aired as an occasional part of the network's ABC's Wide World of Entertainment, an umbrella title for various series, concerts, and specials running in late-night. His show remained in this rotation through January 1, 1975. Next came a half-hour PBS interview program running from 1977-1982. He returned to his old home ABC one more time from September-December of 1986. Cavett's theme song, used regularly throughout the years, is part of the overture from Candide.moreless
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    The Early Show

    The Early Show

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    CBS (ended 2012)
    The Early Show has aired on CBS since 1999, often competing with other network morning news shows, Good Morning America and The Today Show, which are also from New York City. Bryant Gumbel, Jane Clayson, and Mark McEwen hosted The Early Show from inception until they left the show in October 2002. The show is currently anchored by Harry Smith, Julie Chen, Russ Mitchell, Maggie Rodriguez, and Dave Price.moreless
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    Judge Joe Brown

    Judge Joe Brown

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    Judge Joe Brown, the non-traditional, no-nonsense, no-holds-barred presiding judge of his signature series, the daily, half-hour, syndicated, reality courtroom show JUDGE JOE BROWN, that entered its seventh season on Monday, September 13, 2004.moreless
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    The Rachael Ray Show

    The Rachael Ray Show

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    CBS
    Rachael Ray does it again. She brings her flair and zest for cooking along with her down-to-earth nature and combines it with her genuine warmth to give us a wonderful new talk show that literally makes you feel right at home. Creative and colorful sets combined with a wide variety of special guests help to make this a great show. She interacts with her audience in such a way that makes you feel as if you are spending that time with a girlfriend. Her question and answer segment where she answers questions from the viewers adds a special touch, and it's a treat to watch her prepare meals alongside her various guests and share conversation as well as culinary tips.moreless
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    Piers Morgan Live

    Piers Morgan Live

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    CNN
    CNN's provocative talk show with Piers Morgan airs on CNN. The series features a variety of popular guests and breaking news reports each weeknight.
  • 53
    Talking Dead

    Talking Dead

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    AMC (Returning October 12th, 2014)
    Can't get enough of AMC's Walking Dead? No worries, AMC is bringing you their first live after-show for their hit series, where you can catch up on more zombie excitement. From taking questions from viewers to meeting the actors, producers and more, Chris Hardwick hosts this exciting live look into the show that has become a fan favorite on Talking Dead.moreless
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    Feherty

    Feherty

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    The Golf Channel
    Former professional golfer and current analyst for the sport, David Feherty, hosts this new talk show. Guests on the show will include current players, celebrities and anyone with a love of golf.moreless
  • 55
    Super Soul Sunday

    Super Soul Sunday

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    OWN
    Oprah helps viewers connect with the world around them. Notable guest include Wayne Dyer, Gary Zukav, Deepak Chopra, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Tony Robbins, Iyanla Vanzant, Ram Dass, Debbie Ford and DeVon Frankl.moreless
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    Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction

    Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction

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    FOX (ended 2002)
    Each episode presents five stories, some fact based on real events and some fiction. At the end of each episode, it is revealed which stories are true and which are not. This series first aired in the USA from May 1997 till September 2002.
    In season 1 (1997) the host was James Brolin and in season 2-4 (1998, 2000 & 2002) Jonathan Frakes made a very interesting host.moreless
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    Tosh.0

    Tosh.0

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    Comedy Central
    Comedian Daniel Tosh is the host of this rambunctious program that ranges from the absurd to the profane, the humorously silly to the shockingly irreverent. Built around a unique byproduct of the Internet age, the viral video, Tosh and company scour the Internet searching for the most intriguing, disgusting and entertaining of these mini-cinematic gems and present them with a narrative that is witty, provocative, insightful and outrageous. Add to that Tosh's interviews, skits, and other unclassifiable bits and it's almost guaranteed that you'll find something that will offend you or make you laugh out loud-probably at the same time.moreless
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    The David Frost Show

    The David Frost Show

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    CBS (ended 1972)
    The David Frost Show was hosted by British political satirist David Frost. The show originated in New York and ran 90 minutes (depending on the local stations, it was sometimes cut to one hour). His guests ranged from actors and musicians to lawyers, doctors and politicians. Critics thought the acerbic Frost had sold out, but soon realized that wasn't the case. His manner of interviewing, while sometimes off-putting gave an edge and an insight to the interviewee which was lacking on other talk shows. In the words of Peter Heller, "He is like a bemused and slightly undernourished bird of prey transfixed by a being it finds too fascinating to attack". His catch-phrases ranged from Marvelous! Smashing! Terrific! and It's been a joy having you here! The show ran for three years and during this time David also had a weekly variety program in England and jetted back and forth between shows. This became a great storyline and was used in Here's Lucy television show as an episode, starring David Frost himself, with the Billy Taylor Orchestra providing music. Produced by the Westinghouse Group, The David Frost Show, got its start when Merv Griffin left the afternoon and evening syndication for a late-night network run on CBS, making room for Frost's program to fill the gap. When Merv returned, Frost's program folded.moreless
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    Mad Money

    Mad Money

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    CNBC
    Wall Street expert Jim Cramer dishes advice on the hottest stocks and investment strategies. The show features fast-paced segments such as “Am I Diversified” and “Pick of the Week” where Cramer doles out his wisdom to viewers who call in.moreless
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    Victory by Design

    Victory by Design

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    Speed TV
    Alain de Cadenet, as host/driver, and Tony Maylam, director/writer of the series, explain how they go about sourcing the most important cars in each marque, and then take those cars to a range of challenging and exotic locations in both the United States and Europe.moreless
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