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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive Carson Biography That Expertly Balances The Personal With The Professional
The great Johnny Carson is, of course, the perfect subject to be profiled in PBS's long-running "American Masters" series. An intensely private person, perhaps it was fitting and respectful that they waited a full seven years after his death before putting together this pretty comprehensive biography. Carson, to me, was always an extremely complicated and enigmatic man...
Published on May 17, 2012 by K. Harris

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3 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Video Content
Should have read the description more clearly. Thought this was with old Johnny Carson shows not a documentary of who Johnny was by various entertainers.
Published 22 months ago by Mark Garin


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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive Carson Biography That Expertly Balances The Personal With The Professional, May 17, 2012
This review is from: American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The great Johnny Carson is, of course, the perfect subject to be profiled in PBS's long-running "American Masters" series. An intensely private person, perhaps it was fitting and respectful that they waited a full seven years after his death before putting together this pretty comprehensive biography. Carson, to me, was always an extremely complicated and enigmatic man. He was uncomfortable disclosing the personal side of his life, and yet somehow managed to create a TV persona that you welcomed into your home on a nightly basis. He was a comfort, a friend, a routine. He changed the landscape of television talk shows, was (and is) beloved by the industry and the public, but was always wary of revealing his true self. It's a complicated dichotomy, and one that this profile attacks head-on. Having seen so many of the "American Masters" series, this may well be one of my favorites.

"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. Of course, "The Tonight Show" was known for fostering comedic talent and many who got a boost from the show are on hand to extol Carson's virtues including Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Ray Romano, David Steinberg, Drew Carey, Garry Shandling, and Conan O'Brien. Seriously, I'm only scratching the surface with this list, but there is a veritable who's who of entertainment bigwigs offering comment in "King of Late Night."

Despite the professional polish, however, there always seemed to be something a bit darker behind the veneer. Better than anything I've seen, "King of Late Night" tries to understand the man. He was somewhat of a recluse, had a very public series of failed marriages, and a distant relationship with his mother. This is NOT some sort of expose, though, seeking to uncover unpleasantness. It really is just trying to get to the heart of what made Carson so effective, so accessible, so successful. This is a biographical portrait with a good mix of personal and professional and, as a consequence, I feel like I know him better than ever before. If you are a Carson fan, this is essential viewing--but I really recommend it for anyone interested in entertainment or television. Carson was, is, and always will be a trailblazer and a giant in the field. KGHarris, 5/12.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The King of Late Night shown "warts and all" - Funny moments as well as the "demons" in his life., June 17, 2012
My fellow Amazon reviewer, K Harris, has already done a fine detailed review of this two-hour documentary which aired earlier this year on PBS' American Masters series, so I won't repeat much of what he has already written but I hope to add some info re: the Standard DVD release of the film.

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.

There are two bonus features on the DVD: First is a six-minute "Behind the Scenes with Kevin Spacey". For much of that time we are shown Spacey - who narrated the documentary - in the studio reading his lines. Only halfway through so we get to hear Spacey's reflections on Carson, and see his one and only appearance on the Tonight Show.

The other "bonus" is a series of 12 "Interview Outtakes" (16 minutes) which are highly entertaining. Most come from comedians like Letterman, Seinfeld, Shandling and Leno.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Was Johnny Carson A Tortured Genius?, November 25, 2012
By 
David Kusumoto (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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* I just finished watching this spectacular PBS American Masters documentary that captures the genius and sometimes bewildering paradox behind America's most popular late-night talk show host (NBC's "The Tonight Show," 1962-1992).

* 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. It's also jammed with laughs and yet tackles all of the elephants in the room about Carson, including his numerous pet peeves, jealousies, insecurities, marriages and affairs.

* In the end, while he had a lot of skeletons in his closet - they in fact enrich - and do not diminish - the comedic genius, joy and American cultural significance of Johnny Carson during the last third of the 20th century.

* Put this one in your library and enjoy. It was the best two hours I've spent in a long time.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heeere's Johnny!, May 18, 2012
This review is from: American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
A marvelous insight into this great entertainer. Nobody has replaced him. Much of his personal life is revealed along with wonderful clips from the Tonight show. Truly a must see.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And now, ladies and gentlemen...HEEERRRE'S JOHNNY! (Da-da-da-da-da bum-bum-da-da...), November 1, 2012
By 
steve_manassas (Manassas, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This American Masters documentary, which originally aired on PBS, is an open and honest portrait of Johnny Carson, who hosted THE TONIGHT SHOW for 30 years on NBC and ruled late-night television. The film not only has many clips from TONIGHT, but his earlier TV appearances (THE JOHNNY CARSON SHOW on CBS, WHO DO YOU TRUST?, etc.) and candidly deals with the enigmatic life of this very private man. There are interviews with Doc Severinsen, David Letterman, Claudia McMahon (Ed's daughter), Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Joan Rivers (who never spoke to Johnny again after she left her job as Johnny's permanent guest host to do her own show on FOX - without telling Carson first), and many others. Bonus features include a segment on Kevin Spacey's voice-over work, and interview outtakes.

Johnny Carson, in my opinion anyway, was funnier on his worst night than Leno, Letterman, Fallon, O'Brien, et al, on their best nights. For those who want more Carson, there are many DVD collections available, but the best value for money is The Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection - His Favorite Moments From The Tonight Show (Vols. 1-3) (1962-1992), which I have. There are bigger sets available, but they recycle much of the same material.

This documentary will bring back fond memories for Johnny's many fans, and is a good introduction to Carson for younger viewers who don't know him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best review of Johnny as a star, king of late night & as a man, July 10, 2013
Friends, this is the best review of Johnny Carson and his career, his life, family and even his marriage and friends. I own the STUPID TV set of Johnny and his "best?" shows but this collection goes a lot further and will stick with you for a long time. I first watched it on Netflix and just had to own it. Buy it and share it with your friends, family for for those late nights that you need something positive to pick you up. A true 5.0.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of America's King, February 4, 2013
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Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show for 30 years. By the time he finished his run he was much more than the best comedian and the best interviewer in TV history-he was us- the people of the United States. Americans of every political and religious belief watched him to laugh and to learn. This DVD gives an excellant overview of his career and life. I immensely enjoyed this look back at Johnny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carson ... and all of his flaws., February 3, 2013
By 
Bruce Hart (Centerville, OH United States) - See all my reviews
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Honest portrait of Carson ... shows him to be uniquely talented, and uniquely flawed. Its not a "Tonight Show" highlight film, and is a great documentary of an important piece of television history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for Carson fans, January 26, 2013
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Not much to say about this except to say that this is a great documentary by PBS. This is a compilation of clips,interviews with friends and well know personalities (including Carson himself) who give insights to the man who made late night television so important to TV viewers. There's something about the way PBS puts these programs together that is very entertaining. I bought this because I love Carson and also like biographies. I thought this would be a rehash of material from other sources but in fact it was a very fresh and entertaining look at Carson's life and career. My wife didn't sit down with me at first to watch it as she thought it would be a rehash of other programs. But as she did housework and kind of listened in she soon stopped and sat down to watch it with me. She agreed it was a very interesting and entertaining program and was glad she watched it..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carson was king, June 16, 2012
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This review is from: American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Watched this on PBS and it was very good. It is the true mark of a person when, after they are dead, you don't hear too many people saying bad things about you. It's nice to see Leno, Letterman, Carey and so on say what a career booster it was to get Johnny's approval. It was also nice to hear Joan Rivers admit that she was a low class traitor (my words not hers) for betraying Johnny. The only person I have ever heard say anything bad about Carson was Wayne Newton. And I guess there, you have to consider the source. Can't wait to buy this DVD when it becomes available.
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American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray]
American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late [Blu-ray] by American Masters (Blu-ray - 2012)
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