I've been reviewing these superb productions for all of the 26 seasons that "American Masters" has been on the air, and have written some variation of that line for at least 25 of them. And tonight's "
If you were one of the millions of Americans who ended each night with Carson and his "Tonight" show before turning in, you don't need me to try and explain him to you. The two-hour film is stacked with talking heads including
One of the voices gets it just about right when he explains that the nightly ritual of watching Carson's "Tonight" at the end of the day brought a kind of order and security to viewers in an increasingly complex and challenged America. The show is deftly described as having been a "bedtime story" for adults.
The greatness of this production by
Jones pulls few punches on the man, at least to the extent that the remote Carson could be known. His drinking problems are explored, and he's described by more than one witness as a nasty drunk.
His emotional issues with women are also put out there without the biographer doing too much amateur
The short version: Mommy taught Johnny how to hold back on love lest he be found wanting and rejected again. There's enough here that each viewers can do his own psycho-job on Carson and compulsive sexual infidelity.
But, ultimately, the film is more about the show than the man. And that's as it should be. During his 30 years on the air, Carson created one of the greatest TV and pop cultural institutions in American history. Heck,
As the film correctly explains, NBC and Leno might still be using the "tonight Show" name, but the show-biz greatness ans cultural power of the production ended the night carson walked away.
I say nearly because I feel the film could and should have spent an extra beat or two on the way in which Carson defined masculinity for almost three decades ion American life. More than
Culturally, I didn't think that was a good thing, but it was true and representative of the way in which white male hegemony dominated throught TV long after the woman's movement was supposed to have changed the nation.
Letterman is in the film saying Johnny Carson and his sidekick,
Looking at Letterman, I rest my case about Johnny Carson not being the best male role model.