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Saturday, February 05, 2005

 

DVD BOXSET REVIEW: "JOHNNY CARSON: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION" VOL.1-3

by Don Rose

Johnny will be right back... any time you want. Thanks to this 3-DVD collection, you can revel in over 30 years of memories for many years to come.

There are so many great parts of this box set it is hard to cover them all. Three amazing decades, covered in three discs, with extras galore... bringing you to bellylaughs as well as tears. If you lived through a lot of the years (1962 to 92), the emotion will well up even more. A highly recommended boxset.

The first two discs cover Carson's career, careening through the years. Disc One gives you the first 2 decades of highlights, 60s/70s and 70s/80s. Disc Two gives you 80s/90s highlights, and the documentary Johnny Goes Home, about his trip back to his boyhood home, Nebraska (which starts with his driving home in the EXACT car his Dad let him use as a teenager, and there is footage of him doing just that, way back when, via home movie footage -- a very nice touch).

Disc Three gives you the two final hour-long editions of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The penultimate show features Robin Williams and Bette Midler (whose musical numbers and brief duet with JC will make your eyes moist), and the final show is a final overview and goodbye edition, complete with the opening sitdown (not standup!) monologue... a series of clips, choice moments, slo-mo overview of stars that graced the show over the three decades... a great behind the scenes mini-doc with Doc, Johnny, Ed and Fred (show producer DeCordova) that is a wonderful peek where no fan has gone before (very few, anyway, if any). I especially liked the shots from behind the Great Desk, and the POV shot of what Johnny saw when he walked out of That Curtain every night and faced his audience. There is also, of course, those final-show moments of Doc and Ed thanking Johnny personally, and Carson's emotion-packed final farewell moment.

You can watch each disc in its entirety, as if watching a film in a theatre, OR you have the option to go to each individual bit or interview. All three discs have great extras you can't really see anywhere else (at least not easily). Like: ISO cam shots from the final show (usually a TV director is constantly using bits from all three cameras, switching among them, but the ISO cam footage lets you linger like an insider, like you are there). Then there is one of my favorite things: a short but very well done overview of Carson's entire life, The Johnny Carson Story (made for the 25th anniversary of his reign, in 1987). Other extras I liked: Script notes for some shows... and a peek at some of the question lists Johnny drew from to ask some of his celeb guests (which, the box says, totalled over 25000 over his 4000-odd shows). Truly Carson was the Cal Ripken of late night television, a record that may last forever given the current fragmented short-attention-span landscape that is now TV.

Carson told his audience, in that last emotional show, that if he could magically go back and do it all over again, he would. Now you can. Get this boxset. You will treasure it, and go back to it again and again.

For more info, see www.johnnycarson.com .

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