The 1.5 Hour Shows


On the weekend, Antenna TV has been showing episodes that are long - one hour and a half. I'm pretty sure they're always from the 1970s. I've found them to be much more fascinating than the regular, hour-long episodes aired during the week. You've really got to invest the time to watch the whole episode. The viewer can get an idea of the great effort Johnny went to in order to keep the guests and audience comfortable and entertained. I've noticed that these episodes also contain more examples of jokes "bombing" - or getting a very lackluster reaction from the crowd, which is one of my favorite parts of the show. Johnny's deadpan look to the camera is always funny!

The guests of these long shows are more varied and interesting, too. In most cases, you'll have an actor/actress, comedian, author, animal expert, and maybe an athlete, kid genius, or inventor. The talent coordinator for the show really selected a good mix of people. The depth of conversation with some of these guests is truly rewarding. Johnny will bring up great works of art, literature, or film and make excellent points. When was the last time a modern late night host brought up the Surrealistic art movement of the 1920s and discussed it intelligently with an actor of actress?!

When Johnny says goodnight and makes small talk with Ed and the guests at the very end, I feel like I've spent time with friends and I'm sad to see that it's time to go! I usually shuffle off to bed laughing at one of Carnac's lines!

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Was it on for an hour and a half during the week or only on Saturdays?

I understand that's how SNL got started. John didn't want to work on Saturdays any more.
With the way that SNL is tanking, we could sure use Johnny back!

Damn I'm good.

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Carson didn't work on Saturday nights; NBC just showed a Tonight Show rerun on Saturday nights. When Carson realized that NBC was using the reruns to fill the late-night Saturday slot, he was furious--I think it had something to do with his not receiving the proper royalties for the rebroadcast. He threatened NBC with some kind of lawsuit over it, and NBC agreed to stop showing the reruns on Saturday. Since they needed to fill in the time slot with something, they decided to have a late-night sketch show. Since relatively few people were watching at that time of night, they weren't too fussy about the quality of the sketch show, so they basically let Lorne Michaels and Co. put on just about anything they wanted. The result was Saturday Night Live, which would change the viewing habits of the younger, desirable 20-something demographic, who suddenly started watching NBC on Saturday nights in enormous numbers. A previously moribund TV time period suddenly became "Must-See TV." Carson wasn't too crazy about that, either.
But his refusal to allow re-runs of his shows on Saturday nights was largely responsible for the birth of SNL.

Carson wanted to cut back on his workload, so he was the one who wanted the show to be cut to an hour beginning in the 1980s, as well as appearing three nights a week instead of four (originally five). The 1980s-1990s shows suffered
for this shortened time, without the more leisurely, conversational pace of the 1970s shows.



I'm not crying, you fool, I'm laughing!

Hewwo.

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Yeah, the one hour shows were the era when Carson was just phoning it in and collecting a big paycheck. It was a whole lot less laid-back and relaxed with it becoming way more scripted, controlled (by Carson), and forced. It's really rather ironic in that the later shows that Carson had complete control over are a whole lot less entertaining than the earlier shows.

The guests, with much less time, were hurried and it ushered in a whole new era where late-night hosts, in general, would stop letting the guests really talk and interrupt incessantly (Letterman became the same way in his last decade, as well). They seemed to be inpatient, wanting to just get it over with and out of the studio. The 'art' that Carson had perfected in getting the best from his guests (the New York shows) had finally met the inevitable conclusion with the LA move and simply vanished. Instead of being informative, the shows had become little more than a venue for people to plug whatever project they were promoting, be it a book, tv show, or movie. To their credit, at least today's shows are a whole lot more amiable to current musical guests. It doesn't seem like Carson had much use for any kind of music other than old jazz standards.

I've said before that Silverman never should have agreed to Carson's terms (either in money or reduction in shows), let him go, and put Letterman in.

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You say that, but we would have ended up with the same thing. Letterman was amazing on NBC but pretty much collected a check on CBS. Hell, giving Letterman The Tonight Show in the early 80s really would have robbed us of what Late Night eventually gave us. No way would that motivation have been there.

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Good point about Letterman almost certainly keeping the one-hour format of his old show if he'd gotten The Tonight Show.

But you have to wonder if all the late night competition would have cropped up if Carson had kept the 1.5 hour format. In effect, he opened up the opportunity for the short-interview, one-hour format that's now the norm.

Whether by design to let in the competition, or simply that Carson wanted the shorter show and workweek, there's no question that the Tonight Show change to a one-hour length altered the late night landscape from what it had been during those years when there was absolutely nothing else on at that time of night.

It just seemed that when The Tonight Show was 1.5 hours long, the general mood was a lot more conducive to more laid-back and entertaining banter, the 'party' atmosphere that simply doesn't exist, anymore.

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The reason it happened was that Johnny wanted to leave the show. He no longer wanted to do it. NBC had nothing else, hence the joke NBC stands for Nothing But Carson. They offered him 25 million a tear and he said he only wanted to do 3 days a week. They gave in. Without him, NBC would not have survived.

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It doesn't seem like Carson had much use for any kind of music other than old jazz standards.
I can't vouch for the truth of this story but I've heard that although Carson definitely favored "old" music, he took a single stab in the late 1960s at having one of the big-name rock acts on (don't know which), and the band behaved terribly and it was all a bad time, so Johnny basically said "that's it" and stuck with "safer" musical acts from then on. Again can't vouch for it but it does seem odd that Carson seemed to exclude contemporary rock, even Ed Sullivan who was more "square" than Johnny by an order of magnitude put hot rock'n'roll acts on his show.

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If true, kind of glad rock/roll isn't going to be on... was a little kid back then & loved it... but sick of it today, very overplayed :(

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A couple of other factors that likely played into the dearth of rock and roll bands on The Tonight Show were the unpredictability and logistics. Those guys were quite unpredictable and if there's one thing Carson was famous for, it was his absolute control of everything on the show. Having to put up with Bob Hope showing up and doing what he wanted was one thing. Having to do it with wild, long-haired musicians was quite another. Tiny Tim was about as wild as Carson wanted to get.

Then there's the logistics and cost. Carson's studios don't appear to be arranged in a manner conducive to any kind of big musical production. Then there's the cost of setting that stuff up. One of the major reasons Carson stayed on the air for so long was how he managed to keep his ratings up with very low production costs, meaning The Tonight Show was NBC's biggest money-maker for a long time. There were a very high percentage of shows where there were no added costs, at all, with nothing more than Carson doing his monologue, some lame bit he read off a piece of paper, then a couple of guests who were paid at very low union scale wages. Carson might have been paid millions, but NBC was making many times over that.

If that were to change due to booking the biggest current rock acts that needed a lot of expensive set-up costs, well, Carson knew, all too well, that it would mean a loss of control from NBC. Carson figured, accurately, that in the long run, it just wasn't worth it to book big, current rock acts. Plus, he personally wasn't much into that kind of music, anyway, and as the years went on, neither was his core audience, which was quite a bit older than his competition.

IOW, the more Carson spent producing the show (like having big rock bands), the more likely it was to affect the show's bottom line which, in turn, would give the network more reason to take him off the air.

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Letterman was not there in 1980.

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It was 90 minutes from 1967 till 1980

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Good points about the 90 minutes shows from 67-90 but I think Carson was fueled by cocaine a large part of the 70's. A young lady who had a fling with Carson in the early 80's was chauferred around by one of Johnny's lackeys. The lackey told her about Carson snorting so much coke he had to get surgery to have a teflon plate installed to save his nose.

The story is out there on the web with a picture of Johnny's scar on his nose. If you want I can provide link.

Bottom Line: Johnny's heyday was in the 70's with his 90 minute shows but they were fueled by coke(and cigs). He had to slow down in the 80's or die. Johnny chose life.

Shall we play a game?

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I think The Tonight Show was cut back to 60 minutes with the 1980 Silverman contract (the last twelve years Carson was on the air). The first 18 years from 1962-80 were the 90 minute shows.

Simply put, quality suffered with every major format change; first when he moved from New York to Burbank in 1972, then again eight years later when he had the length reduced from 90 to 60 minutes. It's generally accepted that he knew it, too, and his mood and personality darkened considerably as the years went by (at least when not on camera).

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It was Johnny and Henry who negotiated the show down to 60 minutes. Johnny had all the leverage over Silverman/NBC at the time and he used it to his advantage. Those last 12 years were great for Johnny, he just did his hour and went home. Nice work if you can get it.
Shall we play a game?

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Bombastic Bushkin, the rat.

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Ha ha. nice...

IMDB needs a Like button: 👍
  

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No, you idiot. I can't stand morons that spread BS trying to look as if they know something, when they don't. They would show a repeat of the Tonight Show on Saturday. He wanted them to stop. Saturday Night Live was the replacement.

Damn you're good? No. Damn you're an idiot.

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The longer format was nightly. It was created by Steve Allen, the creator of the program. Carson inherited it from Allen.

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