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TCM Makes Deal for 50 of Johnny Carson's Celebrity Interviews

By Rich Heldenfels Published: November 20, 2012

The official word: For 30 years, Johnny Carson ruled the airwaves as the "King of Late Night TV," delighting generations of fans with his sparkling wit, his impeccable comic timing and, most of all, his engaging interview style. Next summer, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will unveil Carson on TCM, a new showcase of memorable interviews from Carson's three decades as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

TCM has licensed 50 interviews from the Carson Entertainment Group archives, including chats with some of Hollywood's biggest stars. Many of the interviews have not aired since they first premiered.

TCM plans to air the interviews under the Carson on TCM banner beginning in summer 2013. Curated by Emmy®- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jones (Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, TCM's Stardust: The Bette Davis Story) of Peter Jones Productions, Carson on TCM will kick off as five-interview showcases, then air as single-interview interstitials highlighting stars whose films are featured on the network.

The following are just a few of the many treasures featured in the Carson on TCM collection:

-- Interviews with more than 20 Academy Award® winners, including Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, William Holden, Gregory Peck, James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor;
Hilarious conversations with Mel Brooks, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Burt Reynolds and Robin Williams;
-- An adorable interview with 7-year-old Drew Barrymore, who has since grown up to be a Golden Globe®-winning actress and co-host of TCM's The Essentials;
-- A memorable discussion with writer Truman Capote, who directs some pointed barbs at professional actors;
-- Classic segments with Sally Field, who winds up putting shaving cream on Carson's face; Diane Keaton, showing off an Annie Hall style years before that movie would win her an Oscar®; Ronald Reagan, whose years in the White House were still nearly a decade away; and Susan Sarandon, who chats about writing letters to Nixon and starring in the cult musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"Johnny Carson set the gold standard for generations of talk show hosts with his candid, funny and often very revealing interviews with everyone from legendary screen icons to young newcomers," said Tom Brown, vice president of original production for TCM. "Carson on TCM offers classic movie fans the perfect chance to see their favorite stars chatting with one of the most beloved figures in television history."

Carson on TCM marks the second time TCM has showcased talk show interviews with classic film stars. In 2006, the network licensed episodes of the critically acclaimed series The Dick Cavett Show, including in-depth interviews with such iconic figures as Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock and Groucho Marx.

The Birth of Carson on TCM

The idea for Carson on TCM originated with producer Peter Jones while he was making the highly rated PBS documentary Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, which went on to earn him two Emmy® nominations. For the documentary, Carson Entertainment Group president Jeff Sotzing granted Jones unrestricted access to the Carson archives, including all existing episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

"What Johnny did better than anyone was to engage his guests in wonderful conversation," said Jones. "I heard from many of the people who appeared on The Tonight Showover the years that Johnny had the ability to bring out the best in the people he interviewed. He listened carefully and made his guests feel as though they were simply talking to a friend."

After completing the Carson documentary, Jones began to toy with the idea of packaging the most memorable interviews from The Tonight Showinto a showcase. Given the fact that so many of Carson's interviews featured classic film stars, the place he considered the perfect home for the project was TCM.

"With the blessing of Jeff Sotzing, I approached TCM's Charlie Tabesh, and he jumped at the idea," Jones said. "We prepared three segments for his review. TCM loved what we did and accepted our proposal to produce 50 interview segments. Carson on TCMwas born."


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