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DOUBLE-DIPPER ALERT: This latest six disc release is actually the second half of the twelve disc Tonight Show Vault Series collection. In fact, the discs herein are actually numbered from 7 to 12! Forewarned is forearmed, yeah?

From Hollywood, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.
This is Ed McMahon, along with Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra,
inviting you to join Johnny and his guests:


March 26, 1974: Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show), James Garner (The Rockford Files), comedian Robert Klein and Academy Awards show producer Jack Haley, Jr.

March 28, 1974: Michael Landon (Little House On The Prairie), Carl Reiner (The Jerk), Joanna Cassidy (Heaven’s Door) and singer Gloria Loring.

Bonus content: Show opening, monologue and desk banter between Johnny and Ed from March 29, 1974.


November 6, 1975: Drummer extraordinaire Buddy Rich, Jack Palance (City Slickers), comedian Steve Allen, Madlyn Rhue (Bracken’s World).

November 7, 1975: Comedian Shecky Greene, Gene Kelly (Singin’ In The Rain), Stockard Channing (The Fortune).

Bonus content: Show opening, monologue and desk banter between Johnny and Ed from November 4, 1975.


November 11, 1975: Animal expert Joan Embery, Orson Bean (Desperate Housewives), comedian Charlie Callas, Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman).

November 20, 1975: Comedian Buddy Hackett, singer Steve Lawrence, Roy Clark (Hee Haw).

Bonus content: Cooking demonstration with Vincent Price (House of Wax 3D) from November 21, 1975.


August 4, 1977: Joan Embery, Orson Bean, Andy Kaufman (Taxi), classical violinist Eugene Fodor.

August 5, 1977: Comedians Rich Little, Richard Pryor and David Sayh, consumer advocate David Horowitz.

Bonus content: Show opening, monologue and desk banter between Johnny and Ed from August 2, 1977.


November 22, 1972: Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, James Coco (Only When I Laugh), Lorne Greene (Bonanza) and singer Marilyn Maye.

November 24, 1972: Tony Randall (The Odd Couple), Comedian David Brenner, singer Jaye P. Morgan, mentalist Mark Stone and Popov the Clown, of the Moscow Circus.

Bonus content: Show opening, monologue and desk banter between Johnny and Ed from November 17, 1972.


November 27, 1972: World Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier, author Truman Capote, Robert Klein and Tony Award winner Tammy Grimes (The Unsinkable Molly Brown).

November 29, 1972: Buddy Rich, soprano Marilyn Horne, author Margaret Truman and comedy troupe The Ace Trucking Company.

Bonus content: Show opening and massage demonstration from November 23, 1972.

And now: Here’s Johnny!

Despite being the third Tonight Show host (following Steve Allen and Jack Paar), Carson nevertheless remains the universally recognized pioneer host of late night television, to whom all that followed will forever be in debt. For thirty years–from 1962 to 1992–The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson was America’s nightlight; the insomniac’s first shift during their long night’s journey into day. A boon for late night entertainment archeologists, this set resurrects the seventies-in all their tacky glory–allowing you to experience the sights, the sounds and of course, the cigarettes.

Johnny never worked as hard as Stephen Colbert or Conan O’Brien currently do for laughs. In fact, his monologues seemed almost deliberately engineered to lay eggs, which gave the unflappable Carson a chance to brandish his secret weapon–the reaction. Nobody could profit from telling a bad joke like Johnny. Ironically, left to his own devices at his desk-while interviewing guests or bandying with sidekick McMahon–Johnny displayed an amazingly quick wit and expert timing.

If for no other reason, these video relics are worth seeing for bandleader Severinsen’s outfits–this man was considered an outrageous dresser in Elton John’s heyday! Wearer of the hardest working leisure suits in showbiz, the Doctor’s sartorial splendor relegated efforts by Liberace, Elvis and Evel Knievel to amateur status on a nightly basis.

But of course, there are plenty of other reasons to watch, lest you miss out on Stump the Band, Carnac the Magnificent, the Mighty Carson Art Players and those ever-popular exotic pets segments (“Now, don’t anger him,” Joan Embery advises Johnny, sitting bravely with a hairy Tarantula perched on his wrist).

Time/Life presents The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series in their original full-frame transfers, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. As for the audio/visual quality, you can’t say they didn’t warn you. Several episodes have disclaimers about best–or more specifically, only–available source materials and full disclosure about splices artifacting, softness, warbling and “possibly some other flaws.” Caveat emptor, ya dig?

The full episodes come with an option to view with or without original commercials. I’ll admit that the prospect of seeing them with dimmed somewhat after so many spots for nasal decongestants and “heat ‘n serve” dinner options, but there are some gems to be mined, if you’re patient enough. Among the more interesting ads: Trouble aftershave, the “surprisingly affordable” AMC Matador and Congesprin (“It helps more than aspirin because it IS more than aspirin,”) not to mention those featuring famous faces. Cybill Shepherd (Moonlighting) hawks Revlon, while Jaclyn Smith (Charlie’s Angels) stumps for Max Factor. Tough guy actor Aldo Ray (The Green Berets) endorses Vicks Menthol Eucalyptus Cough Drops (“These babies don’t taste like candy, they taste like they mean business!”) A pre-stardom Terri Garr (Tootsie) shows up as the perkiest airline hostess imaginable and iconic silver-screen beauty Brigitte Bardot (Viva Maria!) entices vacation planners to consider France.

Think of it: the Cote d’Azur; the Eiffel Tower; the cigarettes.

Not guilty.


Tech Specs

The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series (DVD)
Time/Life, 1052 minutes, Not Rated
VIDEO: 1.33:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)


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