Heeeeere's Johnny — on your iPhone, iPad or laptop. Starting Tuesday, fans of Aunt Blabby, Art Fern, Carnac the Magnificent, and Johnny Carson's biting monologues can download editions of his The Tonight Show from the '60s through the early '90s on Apple's iTunes app.
Carson Entertainment Group, which owns the archive of NBC's late night franchise from the 30 years when Carson hosted (he gained control during one of his contract standoffs with the network), has long kept the flame alive for the TV legend on VHS and DVD. With online video downloads reaching critical mass, CEG president Jeff Sotzing believes it is time to make classic Carson available in the format. "The technology is working well and there is still great demand for Johnny," he says. "It's like I Love Lucy or classical music."
The first batch of iTunes releases include clip compilations from each decade ($2.99 each) and condensed versions of individual episodes ($1.99 each) with appearances by David Letterman, Gary Shandling, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, and Chevy Chase. "They're the best representations of those comics and what Johnny was doing at the time as host," says Sotzing, a nephew of Carson and a former producer on Tonight. While those guest names are familiar, expect to see a bygone era of late night on these vintage shows. "When Johnny went off the air in 1992," Sotzing recalls, "we didn't even have a computer at Tonight."
Fans who fondly recall Carson's last days on Tonight will want to check out "The Final Show" from May 21, 1992. It's just Carson, sidekick Ed McMahon and bandleader Doc Severinson reminiscing about their remarkable run, along with clips of the personalities from show business, sports, politics and nearly every other segment of American culture who appeared in the guest chair over the years. The show from the night before, known as "The Next to Last Episode" with memorable performances by Robin Williams and Bette Midler, is available as well. And true Carson fanatics will want the 1982 documentary-style special, Johnny Goes Home, in which cameras follow the host during a visit to his native Norfolk, Nebraska. It's a reality show ahead of its time.
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