Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Here's Johnny, Seven Nights Per Week!





What a pleasure it is to have the late night master Johnny Carson on the air again. On January 1, 2016, the Antenna TV network started airing his shows. Monday through Friday the shows are 60 minutes, made between 1980 and 1992. On Saturday and Sunday, the shows are 90 minutes, aired from 1972 to 1980. It has been amazing to revisit these shows from Johnny. It makes one realize how good he was at his craft. He was a top notch stand up comedian of course, but he also shined as an interviewer and as a comic actor with his Mighty Carson Art Players segments. We have been able to see segments featuring his characters such as Carnac, Art Fern, Floyd R. Turbo and Aunt Blabby. At Johnny's side is the number one second banana, Ed McMahon. Doc and the band sound fantastic as usual. We have seen several episodes with David Letterman. For years, we figured that Letterman was the heir apparent to Carson. Unfortunately Jay Leno filled Carson's spot in 1992 when Johnny stepped down. But, Dave turned out ok, with a 33 year career in late night.

It has been a special treat to see some of the all time legends of show biz on the air again. Johnny's guest list read like a who's who of Hollywood with guests like George Burns, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Benny, Rodney Dangerfield and many more.

I only have one complaint with these Carson episodes on Antenna TV. There have been very few musical guests and few performances by Doc and the band. People are speculating that the reason behind this is costs that have to do with music licensing. The royalties need to be paid through music agencies like BMI and ASACAP when these shows are re-aired. We have seen more musical performances in the second half of the year than in the first half, so hopefully that is a good sign. Antenna TV is probably doing well ratings-wise with the show, which would expand the budget for airing musical acts.

Antenna TV is tight-lipped regarding ratings numbers, but I have a hunch that they are pleased with the response to the show. Folks of all generations can experience the magic of Carson.

Carson fans will want to check out this Facebook fan page, dedicated to Johnny. At the beginning of 2016, it had 100 members. Now it has over 2700. No doubt the Antenna TV airings have increased the interest in the late night icon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It's Cavett vs. Carson Once Again


First it was Johnny Carson returning to late night TV at the beginning of this year on Antenna TV. Now it will be Dick Cavett airing on the Decades channel. They will both air at 11:00 pm eastern, going head-to-head just like they did between 1968 and 1974. During that period, Carson was on NBC and Cavett was on ABC, with both shows originating from New York City.

In 1966, Ed Sullivan announced stand-up comedian Dick Cavett as "A young collegian from Yale". He had worked as a comedy writer for Tonight Show hosts Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He also was a writer for the short-lived Jerry Lewis variety show in the 1960s. Writing for others was paying the bills, but Cavett wanted to try to be a late night host where he could perform his own jokes for a nationwide audience.

Cavett has hosted many shows in various time slots for various networks including ABC, CBS, PBS, USA, CNBC and TCM. These rebroadcasts will span the array of Cavett shows that aired between 1968 and 1996. He is a cerebral guy who is good friends with Woody Allen. The two of them share a similar comedic style. You could say that Dick Cavett is a "thinking person's" host.

The show begins airing on Decades on February 1. People already need to choose between Fallon, Kimmel and Colbert, and soon we will be able to add Carson and Cavett to the options. Find the Decades affiliate in your area here.

* Some information from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-cavett-carson-tv-0120-biz-20160119-story.html and
http://rwkates2001.wix.com/late-night-tv#!dick-cavett/cs11

Friday, January 08, 2016

Johnny Carson Returns to Late Night


The past couple of years, we have witnessed many changes in the late night TV landscape. David Letterman, Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson stepped down after many years as television mainstays. Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Jimmy Fallon stepped into new roles.

On January 1st, the Antenna TV network started airing episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The program airs 7 nights per week. Monday through Friday are the 60 minute episodes made between 1980 and 1992. On Saturday and Sunday, the 90 minute shows will air, which were produced previous to 1980. Tune in weeknights at 11:00 pm eastern and 10:00 pm eastern on weekends. Johnny's show aired on NBC from 1962-1992. Most of the shows made for the first 10 years were not archived. It was the practice back then to record over shows once they aired.

It is truly a pleasure to see these classic shows on TV again. It is obvious that so much of what we see on late night TV today was influenced by Carson. Younger generations will get exposed to the genius of this show. It is staggering to think about the groundbreaking comedians who got their big break with Johnny. A good appearance on the show would send struggling careers into the stratosphere.

Johnny's success can be traced to a couple of factors. Unlike many of today's hosts, he really listened to his guests. He was not glued to his notes, obsessing about his next question. Also, he wanted his guests to shine. He did not need to hog the spotlight and get all of the laughs for himself. He knew that if he had top-notch guests, it was good for the show. Between the celebrities, the skits by "The Mighty Carson Art Players", the outstanding big band jazz NBC Orchestra and the personalities of Johnny, Ed and Doc, this show was something special.

Those who enjoyed the show can check out the Facebook Johnny Carson Fan Club here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Woody Allen's Musical



In 1996, Woody Allen released his film called Everyone Says I Love You. It is his only musical that he has made to date. The actors were not told that it was a musical until after signing their contracts. The title comes from a song in the 1932 film by the Marx Brothers called Horse Feathers. Woody is a fan of Groucho and his brothers, and there are references to them multiple times in the film. At one point there is a party where the guests wear Groucho eyebrows and mustaches and carry fake cigars.

The cast is truly star-studded. For this film, Woody Allen signed Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts and more. Many actors want to work with Allen due to his long career as a master writer/director and actor. He is admired by many for his work and creative vision. The total budget for the film was just $20 million, peanuts by Hollywood standards. The cast must have worked for a lower salary than they are accostomed to with this modest budget. One young star in the film was a 15 year old Natalie Portman. At this point, this was just her fifth film. She had already worked with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in Heat. The same year that Everyone Says I Love You was released, her film Beautiful Girls hit theatres. That was another impressive cast, starring the likes of Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Michael Rappaport.

There is a reason that this movie felt like an old school Fred Astaire style musical from the golden days of Hollywood. Many of the songs date from the Depression era, if not earlier. A few of them include these.

Just You, Just Me-1929
Everyone Says I Love You-1932
My Baby Just Cares for Me-1930
I'm Through with Love-1931
Cuddle Up a Little Closer-1908

Music has always played a key role in Allen's work. Many of his films have a classic jazz soundtrack. For his film Manhattan, the music of George Gershwin was featured extensively. He used Rhapsody in Blue for his opening credit sequence which featured black and white scenes of Manhattan, wrapping up with an unforgettable fireworks scene. Everyone Says I Love You is filled with gorgeous songs. Some are toe-tappers and some are slow and thoughtful, but it is masterful the way they are intertwined within the storyline. The movie features singing and dancing scenes, and all actors performed their own singing with the exception of one, Drew Barrymore.

The story is peppered with scenes of melancholy and mirth. It is a family story, about upper class New Yorkers who struggle with relationships. Woody Allen's character falls for Julia Roberts' character. Drew Barrymore has ups and downs in her romantic life. Some scenes in the film were shot overseas, in Paris and Venice. This was a departure for Allen since it was his first film in over 20 years to be shot outside New York. But, in his future work, Allen would shoot many films in Europe.

Woody Allen's personal life has been tabloid fodder for years. I certainly do not endorse the choices he has made. He is an odd fellow but a brilliant artist nonetheless. This film is one of his best, up there with Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and more. It is a light, feel good movie with songs that you will find yourself humming. Check it out, especially if you enjoy musicals.

* Some information from imdb.com.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Show Biz Wiz Quiz!


It's quiz time. Find the answers to these questions by looking at my last 10 blog entries.

1. What jazz vocalist/trumpet player hails from British Columbia, Canada and is receiving rave reviews for her work?

2. Which "Rat Pack" member started performing in Vaudeville theatres in 1929 performing with his father and uncle?

3. Who is the comedy legend that filled in for Johnny Carson 87 times as guest host of the NBC Tonight Show?

4. Between 1946 and 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed regularly at what legendary New York City nightclub?

5. What groundbreaking situation comedy set the record for the highest Nielsen rating (67.3) in 1952-53?

6. Which late night TV host retired in May, after 33 years hosting his own show?

7. Who is the Canadian actor who has starred in the TV shows Family Ties and Spin City?

8. Which multi-talented Hollywood performer wrote 2 books about his life, called "Why Me" and "Yes I Can"?

9. What Harvard-educated actor starred in the films The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment and Footloose?

10. Canadian entertainers Martin Short and Paul Shaffer met in the 1970s while working on a Toronto production of which musical?

Answers

1. Bria Skonberg

2. Sammy Davis Jr.

3. Bob Newhart

4. The Copacabana

5. I Love Lucy

6. David Letterman

7. Michael J. Fox

8. Sammy Davis Jr.

9. John Lithgow

10. Godspell

How did you do? Leave a comment below. Also, feel free to let me know about what topics you would like to see covered on this blog.