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American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray]
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"King of Late Night" works on a number of different levels. It spends, obviously, a great deal of time revolving around "The Tonight Show" which makes sense since Carson hosted the program for over 30 years. In a world where the TV audience was not as fragmented as it is today, Carson was a late night staple for the masses. For nostalgia factor alone, "King of Late Night" is wildly entertaining for its wide array of clips from that program. Carson had both an urban wit and a boyish charm which was, in my opinion, a large part of his appeal. When he was on, he was on! And this program shows him at his best, as the consummate host. The documentary looks at some of the more heartfelt and sentimental segments from the show, but doesn't skimp on laughs.Read more ›
I have to admit that I was not a REGULAR viewer of Carson's Tonight Show but certainly watched it a few times each year. And I have seen all the "Specials" where they replay classic moments like the Ed Ames' tomahawk sequence or what was probably the funniest answer to a Carnac the Magnificent question. (Both of those moments are repeated here, along with some - such as the one night that Ed McMahon showed up drunk. - that I didn't remember.
There's a nice balance of "funny" and "serious" in the film and so don't expect to laugh all the way through. Carson had many personal "demons" (his relationship with his mother - and his four wives - are just a few). But writer/producer/director Peter Jones presents these with directness. And just about everyone who was connected with Carson is included in the interviews: His various biographers, his protégé's (Drew Carey, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Gary Shandling, Joan Rivers among them), and his various Producers. Sadly both Director Fred DeCordova and (even more relevant) Ed McMahon had died before this project was started. (We do hear from McMahon's daughter.)
One annoyance - at least to me - in the film is that - unless a person is being interviewed, they are not identified on the screen. There are clips from the show where many younger viewers would have no idea who guest sitting next to Johnny is. Other than that small gripe, the film will serve as a document to Carson's legacy to television history.Read more ›
* What's wondrous about this slick and even-handed presentation is that all of the major players are featured - from David Letterman to Joan Rivers to Jerry Seinfeld to Jay Leno to Peter Lassally to the late Ed McMahon and Fred de Cordova - all whose lives were changed, for good or for ill - by a man Americans thought they knew - who was also terrifyingly aloof, shy and distant to his closest associates and wives - as well as to his very own children.
* The take away I got is that nearly every genius we know on earth - must also have some nebulous insecurity or flaw that somehow acts as a propeller to greatness. The clips, interviews and research footage are perfectly integrated to draw a complete picture of why Carson was #1 - tracing the roots of his shyness and awkwardness to his parents - in particular to his stern and hard-to-please mother.
* The irony of this is underlined when after her death at 85, Carson discovered that his mother had kept every single clip and notice of her son's titanic career hidden in a box, withholding her pride from her son. The picture that emerges of Carson is a man who wielded incredible power - but who was not so much a "lonely man" - as much as he was a man who loved "being alone."
* This documentary is enriched by many golden interviews, some of them quite emotional, such as, for example, comedian Drew Carey's tearful recollection of his debut on the Tonight Show - and then being shocked - when he was "called over" to sit and chat with Johnny, changing his life forever.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The King of late night and will always be. Outstanding stuff here!!Published 6 days ago by D. J. Ryan
Got this for my Dad for his birthday. Thought he'd enjoy a laugh or two.Published 8 months ago by L. Russell
There is nothing disappointing about this documentary. It does a VERY good job at showing you the very early stuff right through until the last breathe. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Lance
If it was possible for me to do, I'd reincarnate Johnny. I don't bother to watch late night anymore. Read morePublished 10 months ago by paulscott