Tuesday, May 08, 2012

20 Years Later, I Still Don't Miss Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson retired 20 years ago but I was sick of him long before that.

I was too young to watch the really early 'Tonight Shows', but I remember when he was still in New York. My mom let me stay up to watch a New York episode when Paul McCartney and John Lennon were on (I was about eleven years old). When I watched it, I was disappointed that Johnny wasn't there. In his place was guest host Joe Garagiola (a famous ex-baseball player and sports announcer).

The interview (you can find a transcript in the Beatles Interview link on the right) was horrible. I'm not sure Carson would've been much better, but at least Carson wasn't a dumb jock. Can you imagine how great it would've been if Dick Cavett had been the host?

But my point here is Carson and how I don't miss him.  One of the main reasons is that like the night I saw the John and Paul interview, there was nothing to miss. He was never there! Carson was always on vacation. So much so, it was a running gag. And he eventually cut the show from 90-minutes to one hour and his five days a week to only four.
Also, every time his contract was up with NBC, there was some long drawn out very public negotiation with Carson threatening to quit or go to another network. It kinda took the fun out of the show.
Okay, so I know that Letterman only does four nights and only one hour. The point is, Carson started that. Before Carson, late night shows were 90-minutes and live five nights a week. He created that easy work schedule that the networks and hosts are now addicted to.
And besides, I can't help it if my main memory of Carson is that it was always a rerun or a guest host and he was never on.
Also, Johnny Carson wasn't that great. They talk about him like he was some super talent. He was average. He was a square. What was so good about him? The American public loves average like they love Ronald Reagan and McDonald's. ´╗┐It still amazes me when something that's good is ever super popular. Like The Beatles, for example.


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