Saturday, October 23, 2010

Digital Digest: Tonight - 4 Decades of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson DVD Review

Welcome back to another week of Digital Digest! This week, along with our regular news and updates, we celebrate the return of a former reviewer who is rejoining us today with a review of Respond 2's mega-set, Tonight - 4 Decades of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson! And it may not even be Halloween just yet, but we've got some Christmas DVD news for you as well! Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

There have been a few compilations of Christmas episodes released on DVD in the past few years, including the upcoming Christmas Treats DVD from CBS Home Entertainment. But we have an even bigger treat coming sometime next month from Warner Archive (Warner's manufacture-on-demand program) with their just announced Classic TV Christmas Collection! While we don't have specific details on the episodes or cost just yet, we do know that it will be released on November 9, and we also know which series will be included, and some of them have never been released on DVD! The DVD includes episodes from Veronica's Closet, Suddenly Susan, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Welcome Back, Kotter, Dr. Kildare, Mama's Family, Eight is Enough, Perfect Strangers, Alice, and CHiPs! The best part is that, with the exception of Perfect Strangers, none of these series have had any of their Christmas episodes released on DVD, so just about everything on the set should be new to DVD! It isn't available to order just yet, but should be soon. We do have artwork, which is shown below:



That isn't all for Warner Archive, though! Later in November, on November 30, they are releasing the animated spinoff of The Dukes of Hazzard, The Dukes! Details are a little murky on this release right now, but we assume that it will be a release of the entire series, consisting of 20 episodes.

In other news, Shout! Factory has plans to release a few single disc releases of series that they've already released, including Adam-12 - Season Two, Volume One; Dragnet - Season Two, Volume One; and Spin City - Season One, Volume One. They will all be released on January 11 at a low MSRP of $7.93. Each of these will contain ten episodes, which, unless that episode count is incorrect, suggests that these will not be exact copies of discs from the previous releases.

Finally, we go back to the department of current series on TV that we all knew were coming to DVD anyway, as Amazon.com puts up even more pre-order listings for the current seasons of various series on DVD. This week, NBC/Universal is in the spotlight, with pre-orders appearing for The Office - Season Seven (also on Blu-ray Disc), 30 Rock - Season Five, and Parenthood - Season Two! No release dates or other information is known just yet, but we'll have details when we get them, of course!

UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

There isn't much coming out on Tuesday (October 26) in the realm of sitcoms, but there are a few other releases of note, including the 15 disc set, Tonight - 4 Decades of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which we have a review of today in Digital Digest. Additionally, we have C.S.I.: NY - The Complete Sixth Season on the way, and The Twilight Zone - Fan Favorites, which contains nineteen popular episodes of the series.

BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

Respond2 Entertainment has compiled a once-in-a-lifetime collection of the greatest moments in Tonight Show history in one 15-disc set - Tonight: 4 Decades From The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Perfect for the Johnny Carson or Classic Television fan on the holiday list, Tonight features over 50 shows hand-selected by the original Producer as the best episodes from the show's 30-year run, covering the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's! The collectable set features over 30 hours of material that has never before been released on DVD including rescued footage from shows originally airing in the 1960's (virtually all episodes and other content from the 1960's were lost) and all-new interviews with some of Carson's most celebrated and regular guest stars including Actress Loni Anderson, Comedian David Brenner, and fan-favorite animal handler Jim Fowler! Here is our review of Tonight: 4 Decades of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

DVD Review: Tonight: 4 Decades of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
by Greg Brobeck

I'd like to start off this review by first saying it's great to be back writing reviews again after such a long absence (6 years!). I want to thank the staff for so cordially inviting me back. - Greg

Tonight: 4 Decades of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Respond2 Entertainment, $119.99) features 56 episodes of the classic late night talk/variety show hosted by the late, great Johnny Carson for 30 years, in a beautiful 15-disc set. The episodes were hand-picked by one of the show's producers and are intended to give an overview of the best of the show's three decades on the air. This includes great comedy moments with Johnny with such memorable segments as "Tea Time Movie" and "The Great Carnac" and memorable guest appearances that really make up a "who's who" of Hollywood, including the likes of Burt Reynolds, The Muppets, Muhammed Ali, Robin Williams, David Letterman, and then-Governor Bill Clinton just to name a few.

The set includes great moments, including Don Rickles continuously interrupting Frank Sinatra to throw insults, the TV debuts of greats like Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres, and great musical performances from everyone from the Jackson Five to Bette Midler to Luciano Pavarotti. Not to mention hilarious sketches from the Mighty Carson Art Players.

I should explain, though, what this set is and what it is not. This set is not a "greatest moments" set. You will not find such things as Ed Ames throwing a tomahawk at a chalk drawing's crotch, the potato chip lady, or Johnny's last show. All of those can be found on other great DVD sets from Respond2/Carson Entertainment, and very little of those contents seem to be duplicated here. This set is a great sampling of the best shows from Johnny's 30 hears at the helm. These episodes give a great look back at what it would have been like to settle down at 11:30 p.m. to be entertained by Carson and crew.

The episode list speaks for itself on the amount of star power on this set. However, the episodes do seem to be heavily edited from their original broadcasts on NBC. The show was originally one hour and forty-five minutes, reduced to 90 minutes, and then eventually 60 minutes, meaning without commercials each show unedited should be at least 45 minutes long with older ones being even longer. Most of the episodes here on this set were edited down to around 30 minutes, unfortunately, but still include the best parts of the episodes:

Disc 1:
1. December 31, 1965 - Woody Allen, The Muppets (31:35)
2. September 23, 1971 - Della Reese, Bob Uecker (28:26)
3. May 19, 1972 - Adelle Davis, Robert Blake, Gwen Davis (33:01)
4. September 15, 1972 - Vikki Carr, Peter Falk, Albert Brooks (30:08)

Disc 2:
5. November 13, 1972 - Mayor Lindsay, Muhammad Ali, Harry Chapin (30:54)
6. September 12, 1973 - Joan Embery, Bette Midler, David Steinberg (30:10)
7. February 20, 1974 - Joan Embery, David Brenner (33:20)
8. April 9, 1974 - The Jackson 5, Jerry Van Dyke (30:15)

Disc 3:
9. September 2, 1974 - Doris Day, Rodney Dangerfield, Burt Mustin (31:19)
10. September 26, 1974 - Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Art Carney (41:15)
11. May 6, 1975 - Luciano Pavarotti, Maude Tull (26:27)
12. September 19, 1975 - Don Rickles, Robert Blake(29:40)

Disc 4:
13. September 23, 1975 - Glen Campbell, Fernando Lamas (29:48)
12. December 9, 1975 - Carol Burnett, Burt Convy, Tom Dreesen (30:18)
13. July 28, 1976 - Burt Reynolds, Robert Blake (38:56)
14. November 12, 1976 - Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Olivia Newton-John (29:24)

Disc 5:
17. May 4, 1977 - Chevy Chase, Richard Pryor (37:06)
18. June 14, 1977 - Alice Cooper, Jay Leno (33:05)
19. September 9, 1977 - Sid Caesar, Eubie Blake (31:24)
20. March 24, 1978 - Donna Pyle, Milton Berle (30:21)

Disc 6:
21. May 2, 1978 - Sammy Davis Jr. (30:17)
22. February 21, 1980 - Steve Landesberg, Loni Anderson (29:59)
23. September 26, 1980 - Steve Martin, The Mighty Carson Art Players (27:53)
24. November 11, 1980 - David Letterman (28:53)

Disc 7:
25. March 4, 1981 - David Brenner (31:58)
26. March 5, 1981 - Slim Whitman (29:41)
27. March 18, 1981 - Richard Benjamin, Garry Shandling (31:27)
28. May 5, 1981 - Jimmy Buffett, Thalasa Cruso (33:13)

Disc 8:
29. October 14, 1981 - Robin Williams (27:18)
30. October 28, 1981 - Lance Burton, Reba McEntire, Dick Cavett (28:33)
31. October 30, 1981 - Michael Landon (30:06)
32. November 12, 1981 - Dom DeLuise, Jerry Seinfeld, Betty White (28:12)

Disc 9:
33. November 19, 1981 - Suzanne Pleshette, Luciano Pavarotti (27:36)
34. November 25, 1981 - Kenny Rogers (27:53)
35. August 31, 1982 - Bill Maher, Joe Garagiola (24:07)
36. December 31, 1982 - Tina Turner, Joe D'Auria & Jonathan Brown (29:39)

Disc 10:
37. January 5, 1983 - Teri Garr, B.B. King (31:34)
38. May 17, 1983 - Albert Brooks, Brooke Shields (31:33)
39. September 8, 1983 - Bill Cosby, Chuck Mangione (33:00)
40. January 4, 1984 - Dabney Coleman, Paul Rodriguez (27:55)

Disc 11:
41. May 17, 1984 - Garry Shandling, Stephane Grappelli (28:29)
42. May 24, 1984 - John Denver, Michael Davis (25:53)
43. November 20, 1984 - Robert Blake, Louie Anderson (31:39)
44. November 22, 1985 - Jim Fowler, Marty Pollio, Ruben Blades (29:32)

Disc 12:
45. December 17, 1985 - Bette Midler (29:28)
46. March 27, 1986 - Billy Crystal, Buddy Rich (31:47)
47. April 18, 1986 - David Letterman (30:00)
48. June 27, 1986 - David Letterman, Judge Wapner (26:48)

Disc 13:
49. November 26, 1986 - George Carlin, Barney Odom (& Flat Nose) (28:14)
50. January 8, 1987 - Robert Goulet, Waddie Mitchell, Baxter Black (29:07)
51. May 21, 1987 - Eddie Murphy, Ellen DeGeneres (23:47)
52. July 28, 1988 - Bill Clinton, Joe Cocker (30:05)

Disc 14:
53. July 29, 1988 - Michael Landon, k.d. Lang (28:26)
54. November 23, 1989 - Lea Johnson, Tom Wilson (28:07)
55. January 18, 1990 - Joan Embery, Art Donovan (28:59)
56. April 6, 1990 - Jeff Dunham, B.B. King (32:44)

Disc 15 - Special Features:
* Rescued Gems of the 1960s (1:03:51)
* Interviews: The Guests Remember (1:10:57)

The packaging for this set is simply gorgeous. It comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a hinged lid, with the name of the set and a picture of Carson in later days with silver hair. The lid opens up to reveal four removable fold-outs that contain the discs and a booklet. Each fold-out is similar to the outside box, except the picture of Carson is from the same era as the episodes contained therein. The only complaint I have is that some of the discs overlap, meaning you have to take one out to get to another, but this can be overlooked. The booklet has a nice history of Carson and the show with some interesting photos, and a look at some of what you can expect from the set.

The menus are very simple... perhaps too simple. You get the Tonight Show logo, a picture of Johnny, and a list that simply says "Episode 1," "Episode 2," etc. You have to refer to the booklet or the fold-out to determine which episode you want to select. There is a "Play All" button on each disc. After you select your episode, you're then taken to a generic slate giving the airdate and the guests, followed by a generic intro created for this set. The episodes themselves begin with Ed McMahon shouting "Heeeere's Johnny!"

Video and audio quality seems to be good on this set for the most part, especially considering the age of these shows. The show tapes have been kept in a secret salt mine somewhere in the Midwest and the great care taken for them shows. There does seem to be some heavy compression issues with some shows, however. Some sequences seemed very pixilated on my TV screen. Audio is fine. Most of the episodes are in their proper mono sound. Stereo television was introduced in the mid-1980s, and all episodes from that point on are in their proper stereo sound. There unfortunately are no subtitles or closed captions.

The special features are quite interesting. Carson and NBC did not begin maintaining a library of the shows until 1973, so most shows from before then have been lost to time. However, some great bits have managed to survive in clip form. The first special feature is called "Rescued Gems of the 1960s" and is just that. Nearly two hours worth of classic clips from 1960s episodes either thought long lost, or that only survived as clips. The clips are separated by chapter marks. Next is "Interviews: the Guests Remember" which is an interesting piece with frequent guests Loni Anderson, David Brenner, Jim Fowler, and Baxter Black reminiscing about their memories with Carson.

I can recommend this set to pretty much any true Carson fan or to anyone who was either alive and wants to re-experience the Carson viewing experience or wants to see what it was like. The shows contained are highly enjoyable and give a great overview of Carson's three decades as host. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could recommend it to the extremely casual Carson fan who only wants a collection of Carson's most memorable moments. For that there are a number of other great DVDs out there at a less expensive price. Heeeeere's Johnny!

(4/5 stars)

To purchase this DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson TV.com page

LOOKING AHEAD

Halloween weekend is less than seven days away, and we'll have few tricks and hopefully a lot of treats for you next weekend! We will have some Halloween themed reviews coming up, and, even though we have no "sweeps" standards to be held to, we have some special November sweeps style stunts coming up! Stay tuned and keep it digital!


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
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Saturday, December 3

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When Henry uses his new super power to compete in a Dodge-A-Leen tournament, Ray, Schwoz, and Charlotte go undercover to teach Henry a lesson.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Monday, December 5

  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Watch Will on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. He chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/The Hogan Family/It's Your Move) - Jason visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) - Gael is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) - Steve appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • The Cast of Fuller House - The cast of Fuller House are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Patricia Heaton (The Middle/Back to You/Everybody Loves Raymond) - Patricia stops by Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Miss Piggy (The Muppets) - Miss Piggy and Harry perform Deck the Halls on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Meredith Hagner (Search Party/Men at Work) - Meredith is a guest on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Lauren Graham (The Odd Couple/Conrad Bloom/Townies) - Lauren appears on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. talks about Office Christmas Party on the AOL Build Show at 3pm. He will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET. He can also be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 9:50am.
  • Bradley Whitford (Happyish/Trophy Wife) - Bradley is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Josh McDermitt (Retired at 35) - Josh can be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 10:45am.
  • Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait/Guys with Kids/Worst Week) - Erinn talks about Kevin Can Wait on the AOL Build Show at 4pm.