Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Sorry I haven't ducked in for awhile. Needed a break, I guess. September was tough.

But, I noticed that two of my favorite television programs are celebrating milestones this week. So, I thought I'd duck in, pull up a chair and muse a minute. Indulge me.

The first one, the big one -- "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" -- turns 50 this week. His wasn't the first late night show (Carson himself had succeeded both Steve Allen and Jack Paar at NBC's "Tonight"), but it's the best -- then, now, always. I said the other day that a cable channel would be smart to air re-runs -- the entire, unedited show -- at 11:30 each weeknight. I'd watch. It would be better than Letterman most nights and Leno every night.

What made Carson magic was his sense of himself. He never lost the mind-set of a guy from the Midwest. We could relate. Ed, Doc, Carnac, Jim Fowler and the animals -- the darn thing just worked. Even when it didn't. Carson could mine for classic comedy when a joke bombed better than anybody since Jack Benny.

 It's hard to believe he's been off the air for 20 years. When you're not doing anything, surf over to YouTube and find that clip of Carson and Bette Midler singing "Here's That Rainy Day."

Funny, that rainy day is here...

Television's last great sitcom, "Cheers," turns 30 this year. THIRTY!

What a classy, intelligent, literate, well-written, well-acted show. I doubt we'll see anything like it again. Most everything nowadays, particularly a network sitcom, is physical, slapstick, that annoying "Seinfeld" post-irony crap. Viewers are too impatient to sit still and watch a show in which people talk to one another. Hell, we can't even do that in real life anymore.

Go back and watch some of those episodes, particularly from the Shelley Long years. It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

I went to Boston a few years ago. And, as much as I enjoyed the trip to Fenway, the American Revolution tour, nothing quite captured the excitement of walking into the old Bull and Finch pub and sitting at Norm's seat in the "set bar" upstairs.

Don't miss an excellent oral history of the show in the current edition of GQ.

Cause, even after 30 years, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name...