The 1950s were television's so-called Golden Age. But for Johnny Carson, featured here in ten episodes of The Johnny Carson Show
from '55 and '56, the metal was a bit less precious--bronze, maybe, or iron, as he was just beginning to hone the style that would make him a bona fide legend of the small screen. Carson, 30 years old at the time, had spent a year hosting a game show called Earn Your Vacation
when the CBS network offered him his own 30-minute variety program (another game show, Who Do You Trust?
, would follow; an episode is included in this two-disc package). For sure, the Carson who would reign over late-night TV during his remarkable thirty-year run on The Tonight Show
is in evidence here. There are impersonations (newsmen Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite) and parodies of other TV shows, a few original characters (like "Yasha" Carson, violinist at the Russian Gypsy Tea Room, and Dillinger the Mental Wizard, a precursor of the Carnac the Magnificent), and the silly shtick that would become a staple of The Tonight Show
's Mighty Carson Art Players (for example, a mildly amusing Trojan War skit); there are also bits with both his real family (including wife Jody, the first of four Carson spouses) and actors portraying them (one skit finds him buying a cow after suspecting that his wife is dallying with the milkman). Yet while it's undeniably fascinating to see the young Carson at work, it's also clear that he had yet to hit his stride; neither his monologues nor his inimitably droll, deadpan takes are anywhere near what they would be. With Carson himself doing much of the writing, the show has some adult innuendo but very little content that would today be considered "edgy." That's a good thing, by the way. Somewhat less good is the quality of these black & white episodes, which were remastered from kinescopes. Yet overall, The Johnny Carson Show
will likely be of considerable interest to fans of a true television immortal. Other bonus features include a brief clip from Carson's two-week run as substitute host of The Jack Paar Show
in 1958. --Sam Graham
Johnny Carson's First TV Show--Thought To Be Lost Forever--Comes To DVD!
10 Episodes of The Johnny Carson Show
(1955-56) and Rare Bonus Material
While working as a staff writer on The Red Skelton Show
one night in 1955, Johnny Carson filled in as a last-minute replacement when Skelton was injured during rehearsal. Carson did such a good job that CBS created The Johnny Carson Show
as a showcase for the young comedian. The 39-week series served as a precursor of what would come later for Johnny, planting the seeds for the sketches he would perfect on The Tonight Show with his Mighty Carson Art Players. The Johnny Carson Show
features Carson in parodies of popular television shows of the era, including one of Edward R. Murrow's Person To Person, in which Johnny turns in a hilarious impersonation of Murrow. Carson also spoofs The Three Musketeers, Walter Cronkite, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Dragnet
and the Russian ballet. Members of Carson's cast include Jamie Farr and Jack Albertson and guests include James Arness (promoting the premiere of his brand new series Gunsmoke), Eva Gabor and movie composer Dimitri Tiomkin.
Ten long-lost episodes of The Johnny Carson Show
, from its lone season in 1955 - 1956, have been digitally restored from the recently-discovered kinescopes for this release.
Bonus features include a 1958 episode of Johnny's popular ABC quiz show Who Do You Trust?,
a very rare episode of his short lived and little known 1956 CBS daytime show, and another recently discovered lost gem: a clip from Johnny's October 1958 stint as the two-week substitute host of The Jack Paar Show.
Total Running Time: +/- 4.5 hours