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The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series DVD Review

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“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series” is a fine sample of Carson’s years hosting The Tonight Show.

“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series” is a 6 disc DVD set that offers up 12 full episodes of Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show era from 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1977. As an added bonus, the 12 episodes even come with the original commercials! Of course, viewers have the option to play the episodes without commercials. Anyway, the episodes feature classic bits like Carnac the Magnificent and a ton of guests including Lynda Carter, James Garner, Michael Landon, Jack Palance, Gene Kelly, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Frazier, Stockard Channing, and more.

Even if Johnny Carson was before your time, there’s no denying that his legacy has endured as the undisputed king of Late Night talk shows. He was and still is a major part of pop culture and TV history. Now, thanks to Time Life, viewers have an opportunity to step back in time to revisit some of Carson’s career as a Late Night talk show host with his partner Ed “Hiyooo” McMahon.

Watching the show today, there is no doubt that Carson was a great host. His monologues were sharp, his humor was genuinely funny, his interview skills are first rate, and his chemistry and banter with his co-host Ed McMahon is positively delightful.

Perhaps the most striking thing about watching old episodes though is how deliciously raw the live shows really felt. The audience reactions aren’t controlled like they are now (people are always yelling stuff out), the show feels unpredictable, and the guests seem far more relaxed and open than they ever do now (they even smoke!). Equally appealing is the variety of guests on the series. There are TV stars (James Garner), stand-up comedians (Rodney Dangerfield), authors (Truman Capote), etc. You never know who is going to come on and I appreciated that. I also appreciated seeing great talent that is sadly no longer with us. Who won’t get a kick out of seeing a truly weird appearance by Andy Kaufman or an awesome drumming solo by Buddy Rich?


Presentation: Fullscreen. How does it look? The picture quality varies from episode to episode. Some look decent for their age and others (like the Nov. 1975 shows) are a bit rough looking.

Audio Track: Unspecified Audio Track. How does it sound? For a 70’s talk show, the sound is generally fine. There are some audio issues due to damaged prints, but overall, it’s solid for what it is.

Extras include 6 bonus segments containing show openings, segments with Johnny and Ed, and a funny interview and cooking demonstration with Vincent Price which actually might be my favorite thing on this entire set.


October 13, 2016 - Posted by | DVD review | , , ,

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