On Oct. 1, 2012 — the 50th anniversary of Johnny Carson‘s debut on The Tonight Show on NBC — a military base in California turned up footage long thought lost of the legendary late late-night TV host.
The find is just one of the more remarkable events happening this fall for the Carson estate.
A PBS documentary about Carson (Johnny Carson: King of Late Night) premiered in May, word came earlier this month of a possible biopic, and now today, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) announced it had licensed 50 interviews from the n0w-bolstered Carson Entertainment Group archives. The TCM clips will re-air in the summer of 2013 as Carson on TCM. All of this is happening 20 years after Carson said goodbye to The Tonight Show, and seven years after he died at the age of 79.
Jeff Sotzing, Carson’s nephew and keeper of his archives as CEO of the Carson Entertainment Group (Sotzing also worked on The Tonight Show for the later half of Carson’s late-night reign), said a huge chunk of Carson’s early work had gone lost, mistakenly or purposefully erased. “Almost everything from 1962-1973 is gone,” Sotzing said.
That is, until last month, when a retiree sorting through old boxes at the American Forces Network Broadcast Center discovered a 16mm film reel that contained clips dating back to 1963. The Department of Defense’s radio and television service offices would receive and then distribute film reels from the various Hollywood studios to show to military personnel around the world. While many old film reels were returned to the studios and then later taped over — employees then not thinking about archiving — this Carson reel stayed behind and was left undisturbed for decades.
Meanwhile, over the past year, Peter Jones was combing through the existing Carson archives while producing the PBS documentary. Jones wanted to package these old Tonight Show interviews separately in addition to using clips in the documentary. “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 TCM was born.”
Here’s a teaser clip!
Carson on TCM will kick off next summer as five-interview showcases, then air as single-interview interstitials highlighting stars whose films are featured on the network.
The classic Carson interviews include segments with:
Sammy Davis Jr.
Mary Tyler Moore
George C. Scott