Ending the day with a dose of Johnny Carson was an American tradition for nearly 30 years, as the King of Late Night seemingly perfected the art of the talk-show interview, and the format itself. Johnny’s been off the air since 1992, but audiences will get a chance to see him in action again this summer — albeit a little earlier in the day — with Carson on TCM.
Hosted by Conan O’Brien, Carson on TCM will feature vintage interviews from The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, many of which haven’t been seen in their entirety since their original air date. It’s the latest in a recent wave of appreciation for Carson, who died in 2005. Last year’s American Masters episode Johnny Carson: King of Late Night was a bona fide television event, and Peter Jones, who co-directed it, is part of the team bringing Carson on TCM to light.
The interviews include a 1982 chat with a 7-year-old Drew Barrymore (right around the time she was melting hearts in E.T.), and go as far back as a 1975 spot with former actor/future president Ronald Reagan, and as recent as a 1992 appearance with Elizabeth Taylor. Carson’s smooth, expert interview skills could be a shock to the system for viewers weaned on the vaguely hostile demeanor of David Letterman, the ironic detachment of Jimmy Kimmel, or the charming amateurishness of Jimmy Fallon.
O’Brien’s presence is especially poignant given his notable, strikingly brief, stint as Tonight Show host. Hopefully this will help him focus on the things that made him love the show and dream about hosting it one day instead of dredging up all those nasty memories about NBC and Jay Leno.
Carson on TCM will run Monday nights in July beginning at 8pm ET. Here is the lineup of interviews that will be featured:
Monday, July 1
8 p.m. — Drew Barrymore (1982), Kirk Douglas (1988), Mary Tyler Moore (1978), Neil Simon (1980), George Burns (1989)
Monday, July 8
8 p.m. — Doris Day (1976), Charlton Heston (1976), Chevy Chase (1986), Steve Martin (1979), Tony Curtis (1973)
Monday, July 15
8 p.m. — Shelley Winters (1975), Ronald Reagan (1975), Robin Williams (1981), Jonathan Winters (1988), Michael Caine (1983)
Monday, July 22
8 p.m. — Mel Brooks (1975), Dom Deluise (1976), Bette Davis (1983), Burt Reynolds (1972), Fred Astaire (1979)
Monday, July 29
8 p.m. — Henry Fonda (1980), Elizabeth Taylor (1992), Susan Sarandon (1974), William Holden (1976), Goldie Hawn (1980)