Other reviewers have done a great job at detailing what is on this new Carson collection – and as a huge Carson fan who owns all the DVDs I want to offer a few tips to potential buyers.
The library of Carson DVDs are divided into “clip shows” that have clips of the best moments in the history of the program, and cutdowns of “full episodes”, like the ones included in this collection. If you want to see the really famous clips (Ed Ames throwing the tomahawk, classic banter between Johnny and Ed or Doc, and the other really monumental moments), then the best collection to start with is the three disc Ultimate Collection, which has the best moments of the thirty years of the show, divided up by decade. If you are even a bigger fan, buy the “Heeres Johnny” Collection, which contains the Ultimate Collection discs, and all the other clip DVDs and few full episode DVDs, including the second to last episode with Bette Midler and the final episode. Both The Ultimate Collection and Heeres Johnny have been out a few years, so if you are buying a gift for a fan they might already own them.
This new collection, “Tonight”, is the first new release from the Carson library in several years, and features cutdowns of full programs, so when you watch it you get a much better feeling for what it was like to sit down at 11:30 pm and watch an episode of Tonight Show, versus watching random but great clips from different shows. These are wonderful programs with great guests, and it is like a time capsule of America over thirty years. Carson sets the standard for talk show hosts, and as you watch these shows you see that almost all of today’s hosts are simply trying to replicate (most of them unsuccessfully) the magic that made Johnny’s show the best.
I have also found it interesting to play Carson episodes for people too young to have experienced him. Without exception – he is still funny, and suprisingly very hip – and young people love him! If they like watching Mad Men – they can watch Carson episodes from the 60′s and see how people really dressed and acted during the period.
Some reviewers have been upset that these are not full unedited episodes – since some of the material is cut out. This is a true and a matter of personal taste. These are thirty minutes long – not the 60 to 90 minutes of the original shows – and I know there are some that want to exactly replicate the original shows. Of course the commercials are gone, and some of the material is edited down or eliminated, probably due to clearance issues. However, the upside of this is that you get cut downs of many more episodes and get to see many more guests, as opposed to fewer episodes that are longer and my have material that is not up to par. Still, myself and many Carson fans have been asking for a full episode collection, and this is a great start. The best moments of the episode are there – including the monologue and guest segments, and you still feel like you are watching an entire show, albeit a shorter one than the original.
And along with the great material, you will love the packaging. It comes in a beautiful box with a great collectors book, and the remastering is top-notch, though some of the edits between episodes could be smoother. There is a total of 1800 minutes of The Tonight Show, so this is a major collection. It is a set that belongs on the shelf of any serious fan of television. In the past I have given the other collections as gifts, as it is the kind of DVD set that virtually everyone would appreciate. This is by far the nicest packaging of any of the sets, and would look really impressive.
So if you are new to Carson, you might want to start with The Ultimate Collection or better yet, Heeres Johnny, which will have the most classic moments from the show. If you own those collections, or are buying for an established fan, you / they should consider this box set.
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Complete Episode List on this DVD Collection:
Episode 1: December 31, 1965
Woody Allen, The Muppets
Episode 2: September 23, 1971
Della Reese, Bob Uecker
Episode 3: May 19, 1972
Adelle Davis, Robert Blake, Gwen Davis
Episode 4: September 15, 1972
Vikki Carr, Peter Falk, Albert Brooks
Episode 5: November 13, 1972
Mayor Lindsay, Muhammad Ali, Harry Chapin
Episode 6: September 12, 1973
Joan Embery, Bette Midler, David Steinberg
Episode 7: February 20, 1974
Joan Embery, David Brenner
Episode 8: April 9, 1974
The Jackson 5, Jerry Van Dyke
Episode 9: September 2, 1974
Doris Day, Rodney Dangerfield, Burt Mustin
Episode 10: September 26, 1974
Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Art Carney
Episode 11: May 6, 1975
Luciano Pavarotti, Maude Tull
Episode 12: September 19, 1975
Don Rickles, Robert Blake
Episode 13: September 23, 1975
Glen Campbell, Fernando Lamas
Episode 14: December 9, 1975
Carol Burnett, Burt Convy, Tom Dreesen
Episode 15: July 28, 1976
Burt Reynolds, Robert Blake
Episode 16: November 12, 1976
Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Olivia Newton-John
Episode 17: May 4, 1977
Chevy Chase, Richard Pryor
Episode 18: June 14, 1977
Alice Cooper, Jay Leno
Episode 19: September 9, 1977
Sid Caesar, Eubie Blake
Episode 20: March 24, 1978
Donna Pyle, Milton Berle Episode 21: May 2, 1978
Sammy Davis Jr.
Episode 22: February 21, 1980
Engelbert Humperdinck, Steve Landesberg, Loni Anderson
Episode 23: September 26, 1980
Steve Martin, The Mighty Carson Art Players
Episode 24: November 11, 1980
David Letterman, Pete Fountain
Episode 25: March 4, 1981
Episode 26: March 5, 1981
Episode 27: March 18, 1981
Richard Benjamin, Garry Shandling
Episode 28: May 5, 1981
Jimmy Buffett, Thalasa Cruso
Episode 29: October 14, 1981
Episode 30: October 28, 1981
Lance Burton, Reba McEntire, Dick Cavett
Episode 31: October 30, 1981
Episode 32: November 12, 1981
Dom DeLuise, Jerry Seinfeld, Betty White
Episode 33: November 19, 1981
Suzanne Pleshette, Luciano Pavarotti
Episode 34: November 25, 1981
Episode 35: August 31, 1982
Bill Maher, Joe Garagiola
Episode 36: December 31, 1982
Tina Turner, Joe D’Auria & Jonathan Brown
Episode 37: January 5, 1983
Teri Garr, B.B. King
Episode 38: May 17, 1983
Albert Brooks, Brooke Shields
Episode 39: September 8, 1983
Bill Cosby, Chuck Mangione
Episode 39: September 8, 1983
Bill Cosby, Chuck Mangione Episode 40: January 4, 1984
Dabney Coleman, Paul Rodriguez
Episode 41: May 17, 1984
Garry Shandling, Stéphane Grappelli
Episode 42: May 24, 1984
John Denver, Michael Davis
Episode 43: November 20, 1984
Robert Blake, Louie Anderson
Episode 44: November 22, 1985
Jim Fowler, Marty Pollio, Rubén Blades
Episode 45: December 17, 1985
Episode 46: March 27, 1986
Billy Crystal, Buddy Rich
Episode 47: April 18, 1986
Episode 48: June 27, 1986
David Letterman, Judge Wapner
Episode 49: November 26, 1986
George Carlin, Barney Odom & Flat Nose
Episode 50: January 8, 1987
Robert Goulet, Waddie Mitchell, Baxter Black
Episode 51: May 21, 1987
Eddie Murphy, Ellen DeGeneres
Episode 52: July 28, 1988
Bill Clinton, Joe Cocker
Episode 53: July 29, 1988
Michael Landon, k.d. Lang
Episode 54: November 23, 1989
Lea Johnson, Tom Wilson
Episode 55: January 18, 1990
Joan Embery, Art Donovan
Episode 56: April 6, 1990
Bob Hope, Jeff Dunham, B.B. King
Go ahead and rate me NOT helpful for this…because I don’t give it 5 stars…and stop reading. Or …perhaps save a hundred bucks? I’m being generous with 3 stars…and that is because even with the lousy DVD picture quality, truncated shows, chopped up interviews and all…there is still so much of ….Johnny. Anybody else and I’d have a hard time raising my rating above a 1 for this overpriced abortion.
I love Johnny, grew up watching him, and often think during todays crazy news cycle..I wonder what Johnny would have opened his monologue with. I’d give Johnny 5 stars for just being Johnny but this review is of a DVD set
Sadly…these are hugely truncated episodes…so essentially their advertising is at least incorrect or more likely complete marketing nonsense. The tonight show was not a 30 minute show so to represent this as ANY number of episodes is a lie. The history of Johnny and the Tonight Show on DVD has been poor ….lots of DVDs little actual content and duplication much duplication. I was hoping that they finally got it right and were actually going to produce a serious number of full episodes that would give a great representation of the history of his amazing show….but its just not much more than clips as other reviewers have mentioned.
I’m also deducting another star for the ridiculous packaging….hey, when you don’t have a lot of content..put it in a big box just in time for the Holidays and the kids can all pitch in and get grandpa a big present. This could have been all in a very manageable box and on a lot less DVDs quite frankly…but this is tailor made for the big box stores and I expect to see them stacked up at Costco soon!
The booklet that comes with this $120 list set is really not much either…and the half hour clips don’t even have chapter stops….its just plain cheap cheap cheap.
Am I still glad to have Johnny back on my tv and in my home YES YES YES…but do I have to rate this set 5 stars when its not?
Don’t get your hopes up, clear a big spot to stick this BOX and enjoy the snippets as they come….I enjoyed the episode featuring Robert Blake…well for less than 20 seconds after he entered a scene where Johnny was pretending to be Columbo with the mighty Carson art players…but hey that 20 seconds got him listed on that episodes guest list so read that carefully and just because one of your favorite stars is listed….don’t get your hopes too high!
I have not watched all 30 hours but have just sampled around some to see if they were as remembered. The quality is also variable but most fans know the story of that as well.
UPDATE:… I put in a few Discs of favorites and already problems…on disc 13 there are problems half way through episode 49 which ruins the George Carlin segment with pixelation and flickering… and on top of that…they edited his stand up…why..they only presented 28 minutes from that episode anyway!!! sheesh…and now disc 4 is jumping just when Sinatra begins his song….I’m leaning toward a return at this point.
UPDATE 2:….I did return this set and then found it (surprise) stacked up at Costco today for $69 so I gave it another try…and the same problems with the same discs so…I think the other reviewer that used the word “flawless” to describe the visual content was not an owner because this isn’t a bad DVD replication but the actual authoring and or source material…and its too bad because Olivia Newton John looks amazing for the few seconds she isn’t suffering the effects of horrible transfer.