A 60-minute Carson episode will air weeknights at 11 PM ET with a rebroadcast at 2 AM ET. On weekends, Antenna TV will run 90-minute episodes at 10 PM ET with a rebroadcast at 1:30 AM ET. This is the first time the Carson episodes will air in a strip since he went off the air in 1992.
“During his Nebraskan boyhood, Johnny Carson dreamed of becoming a world-famous magician, and few would disagree that his three decade dominance of late-night television was anything short of magical. Along the way he pioneered the conversational presentation and generative comedic content that continues to inspire talent and entertainment programming to this day. Thirty years later, Carson’s comedy and humor are just as relevant. We are thrilled to have acquired these programs to entertain existing fans and attract future followers,” said Sean Compton, president of Strategic Programming and Acquisitions, Tribune Media, in a statement.
“Johnny Carson was America’s night light for 30 years. The mantra of ‘we’ll watch the monologue and go to bed’ was the norm for millions of fans. The idea of running the show at the same time every night on Antenna TV will provide viewers with a feel for how the show was viewed originally. This is a fantastic opportunity for people to relive this wonderful piece of American history,” added Jeff Sotzing, president of Carson Entertainment.
Among the many who graced "The Tonight Show" set during Carson's lengthy run were such theatre folk as Karen Akers, Sarah Brightman, Betty Buckley, Nell Carter, Randy Graff, Ellen Greene, Jennifer Holliday, Andrea McArdle, Ethel Merman, Andrea Marcovicci, Maureen McGovern, Bernadette Peters, Frances Ruffelle and Helen Schneider.
In 2005, following Carson's death, Playbill.com reached out to several Broadway actresses who had appeared on his show. Their comments follow: Betty Buckley: "Johnny Carson was so good to me. He treated me so kindly. My first appearance on 'The Tonight Show' was actually with Joan Rivers as guest host. It was the first time I'd sung 'Memory' on the show, and we ran out of time, and I got cut off in the middle. They received so many phone calls and letters that they invited me back. And, Carson presented me like I was this special young artist. He was so dear and sweet to me. I sang 'Memory,' and was very well-received. He was just unbelievably generous to me. He treated me very gently because I think he perceived that I was a shy person. For a while, they kept calling me to come back on the show, so I went back another time and sang again. I didn't know that I was getting special treatment at the time. I didn't know that it was sort of extraordinary that they kept calling me back. When Cats happened, there was so much going on — with the Tonys and the media — and I think I was afraid to step out and accept all the attention I was getting. I recognize all these things now, but when you're young, you sometimes don't get it. I was just really amazed about being on 'The Tonight Show.' You're kind of like a deer in the headlights — I was so starstruck by him. He was just an elegant, lovely person, really human, very generous of spirit, very kind and, of course, had a tremendous sense of humor."
Ellen Greene: "Everyone tuned in for [Carson's] monologues because he was political, he was smart, he was sexy, and he had style. He was really bright and really powerful. There's nothing more of a turn-on than a man who is bright, and he was so bright. He was so sexy, and he had such a dear heart. And he loved talent. He loved pure talent, and that's why people were loyal to him. And, he also demanded it. You never could do his show and anybody else's, and if you did, chances are you wouldn't come back or you wouldn't get on right away. He demanded loyalty, and he got it because a shot on 'The Johnny Carson Show' changed everything . . . [One of his employees spotted me in the West Coast production of Little Shop of Horrors], and I came on as Audrey and did 'Somewhere That's Green.' Everybody who worked for Johnny were ultimate professionals. They knew what they were doing: the sound, the lights, the shots. It was run like a fine instrument. They were so organized. They wanted me to sing 'Green,' and they shot 'Green' so beautifully. I don't usually watch my own stuff, but that was gorgeous. . . It was amazing to work with [Carson] because you never knew which of the questions [from the pre-interview] he was going to ask. It used to bother my agents [how I acted on the show]. They said, 'Ellen, you're so smart, why are you only acting ditzy?' [Laughs.] They wanted that side of me — they liked [women] who were kind of ditzy and funny and sexy. It was also exciting when they were pleased. When you landed a set-up for Johnny, you could tell. I got so much attention from that spot and from subsequent ones. I also want to give him one more [credit]. Because of the great camera work on the show and the lighting and the sound, I think that rendition of 'Green' — me in my Audrey dress and my wig — I think that really helped convince Howard [Ashman], who championed me for the [Little Shop of Horrors] film, that I could take [Audrey] one step further and make it cinematic."
Andrea McArdle: "The first time I was on, I think it was May or June 1977. This was a couple months after Annie opened. My audition song for Annie was 'Johnny One-Note,' so I sang that on the show and 'Tomorrow.' After I got done with 'Johnny One-Note,' [the audience] went crazy [because] I looked like I was eight or nine, although I was really thirteen. After the song, [Carson] called me over, and I sat down, and he said, 'You can come back anytime.' I leaned over to him and said, 'Oh my God, can you get me another vacation day?' [Laughs.] Because it's unheard of in a Broadway show [to get a day off to do a talk show.] And, no kid knew the first act [to Annie]. They waited to teach the [other kids] the first act, so I'd have to be there for at least half of the show [because] we had no microphones, and we were just learning how to sing that loud. . . Later, I went back and did the show when David Brenner hosted, and then I went back again when I was filming the Judy Garland movie. I remember being so into Olivia Newton-John, and they pulled her 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' [set] right from the 'Grease' set — because it was Paramount also — and so I went and did that on the show with him. I also went back again and did 'Over the Rainbow,' and Liberace played for me."
Bernadette Peters: "The first time I was on [in 1970] I sang 'What'll I Do.' There was a good reaction afterwards, really wonderful. People started to notice me when I would appear on his show. That was the great thing about [Carson]. He loved new talent — he loved to present new talent. If you think about it, there's not really a place like that anymore . . . You had a pre interview before the show, usually the day before, to figure out what you wanted to talk about [the next day with Carson]. He was just so good at [interviewing]. You always looked good with him, and he always let you have a moment, and he had a moment, and you had a moment together. It was working together to make something happen. I remember the last time I was on. We were talking about shoes, and he took his feet and he put them on the desk, and he showed me his shoes, and I said, 'Oh, those are coming back!' [Laughs.] We had good chemistry together . . . Who does what he did the same way? He would take risks, and he would have a great time with the guests. You could talk about anything, and he loved presenting and discovering talent. So many people got their breaks on that show and got exposure on that show. I got exposure on that show. And, people tuned in and watched him. He had something that everybody liked: He had boyish charm, he had sexuality, he had that bad-boy [appeal], he was funny — he really had everything. And he was a writer — he loved to be a comic and make something happen and be funny. The last time I saw him was at one of the Kennedy Center Awards a few years ago. He was as charming as ever. It's really sad that he's gone."
What follows is a list of songs performed by some of Broadway and cabaret's leading ladies during Carson's three-decade reign.
Karen Akers — Nov. 1983: "Maybe"
Sarah Brightman — July 1989: "Dreamers" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"; May 1990: "Love Changes Everything" and "Music of the Night"; Jan. 1991: "Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad" and unnamed Aspects of Love song
Betty Buckley — Jan 1984: "Over You" and "Memory"; April 1984: "Over You" and "Memory"; and Feb. 1985: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
Nell Carter — July 1978: "Get Some Cash for Your Trash" and "Honeysuckle Rose"; Feb. 1980: "Mean to Me" and "Cash for Your Trash"; Sept. 1980: "Honeycomb," "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues" and "Moonglow"; Feb. 1982: "Leave Me My Heart"; Jan. 1982: "Never Been So Glad"; June 1982: "Take It Home," "Stormy Weather" and "Since I Fell for You"; Nov. 1983: "You Are"; Jan. 1985: "Be Mine Tonight"; July 1985: "Walking on Sunshine" and "Ain't Misbehavin'"; March 1986: "Be Mine Tonight" and "Stormy Monday Blues"; June 1989: "It Breaks My Heart" and "When I Grow Too Old to Dream"
Randy Graff — June 1987: "I Dreamed a Dream"
Ellen Greene — May 1983: "Somewhere That's Green" and "Suddenly Seymour" (with Lee Wilkof); Jan. 1987: song from Little Shop of Horrors; Feb. 1987: "Suddenly Seymour"; Dec. 1988
Jennifer Holliday — Jan. 1983: "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"; Sept. 1983: "I Am Love" and "Let Me Wait"; May 1986: "We Can Work It Out" and "Dreams Never Die"
Andrea McArdle — May 1977: "Tomorrow"; Sept. 1977: "Tomorrow" and "Johnny One-Note"; July 1978: "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Tomorrow"; Sept. 1979: "Love Wings" and "Over the Rainbow"
Maureen McGovern — Feb. 1983: "I'm All Smiles" and "Right as the Rain"; Jan. 1983: "Spain"; June 1983: "Mr. Paganini" and "The Promise"; Oct. 1983: "Strike Up the Band"; April 1985: Two unnamed songs; April 1986: "I Got Rhythm"; and Feb. 1987: "I Could've Been a Sailor"
Ethel Merman — Sept. 1970 (no details for this appearance); Nov. 1972: "It's De-Lovely"; June 1974: "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "I Get a Kick Out of You"; Oct. 1974: "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "Some People"; Jan. 1975 and June 1975: (no details for these appearances); Aug. 1975: Medley and "I Get a Kick Out of You"; Dec. 1975: "Some People"; May 1976: "Gee, But It's Good To Be Here"; Oct. 1976: "What I Did For Love" and "Sweet Georgia Brown"; April 1977: "Ridin' High" and "Younger Than Springtime"; June 1977: "Nothing Can Stop Me Now"; May 1978: "Gee, But It's Good To Be Here"; April 1979: "Tomorrow"
Bette Midler — Aug. 12, 1970; Aug. 31, 1970; Oct. 1970; Dec. 10, 1970; Dec. 16, 1970; Jan. 1971; Feb. 1971; March 1971; June 1971; Oct. 1971; Dec. 1971; Jan. 1972; March 1972; April 1972; Sept. 1971: "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"; Sept. 1980; Nov. 1983: "Beast of Burden" and "Come Back Jimmy Dean"); Dec. 1985 ("Fat As I Am" and "Skylark"; Dec. 1988: "Under the Boardwalk" and "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today"; Nov. 1991: "Stuff Like That," "Every Road Leads to You" and "In My Life"; May 1992: "Here's That Rainy Day," "One for My Baby"
Liza Minnelli — Aug. 1974: (no details for this appearance); Dec. 1975: "Lucky Lady" and "I Don't Want to Be Lonely Tonight"; April 1980: "I'm Old-Fashioned"; May 1981: "New York, New York"; Oct. 1985: "Boys and Girls Like You and Me"; Oct. 1986: Medley of "My Ship" and "The Man I Love"