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Johnny Carson is coming to Turner Classic Movies

November 20, 2012|By Joe Flint
  • Turner Classic Movies will feature classic Johnny Carson interviews (here with Burt Reynolds) starting next summer.
Turner Classic Movies will feature classic Johnny Carson interviews (here… (Carson Entertainment Group )

Turner Classic Movies is adding some classic Johnny Carson to its lineup.

The cable network has struck a deal for dozens of vintage Carson interviews with movie and TV stars including Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Drew Barrymore, Steve Martin and Elizabeth Taylor. Many of the interviews haven't been seen on TV since they originally aired on NBC.

Turner Classic Movies will use the footage to create 10 one-hour specials called "Carson on TCM" that it will start telecasting in the summer of 2013. TCM will also use Carson interviews as interstitial programming in between its regular movie programming when appropriate. For example, if the channel runs a film featuring Jack Lemmon, it will also show an interview the actor did with Carson.

The agreement came about when Peter Jones, who produced the acclaimed PBS documentary "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night," approached TCM to see if it would have interest in getting access to Carson's interviews. Because of Jones' relationship with the Carson Entertainment Group, he was able to secure the rights to the material and then license the footage to TCM.

Jones sent a couple of clips to Charlie Tabesh, the senior vice president of programming for TCM including a lively one between Carson and Doris Day that veered into  a discussion about, of all things, pornography.

"It was immediately intriguing to us," Tabesh said. The interviews, Tabesh added showed how skilled Carson was at bantering with stars compared to the current crop of late night hosts. "They feel a little longer and they go off in different directions you don't expect."

Of course, the stars were different then too and weren't so worried about going off script.

"It is so stark and obvious when you watch these clips how canned it all is now," Jones said, adding "People will again say `Did you watch Carson last night?'"

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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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