Garry Denny is Director of Programming for Wisconsin Public Television. He is responsible for the acquisition, scheduling and delivery of programming services on WPT, and each month, he gives you the inside scoop on the best new programs in his post “A Look Ahead.“
Johnny Carson: King of Late Night:
My journey to becoming a TV nut and ultimately a television programmer all began with late nights at the age of 10. Despite constant warnings from my father and the reality of having to go to school early the next day, I spent most of my nights watching The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson on NBC. Naturally I was too young to truly understand most of the political and social jokes in the monologue, but something about Carson’s demeanor, delivery and professionalism made the show so accessible, even at my age. Johnny was a true broadcast professional who understood the medium, the audience, and how to entertain America at such a late hour. His interview skills were second to none, whether with a bimbo starlet, a politician, an author or a comedian. He had both the intelligence and curiosity to make every guest feel welcome as an important part of the television party. Unlike his very lame, pandering successor Jay Leno, Johnny Carson had a genuine command of his comedic talents and a keen sense of how to entertain a growing nation of cynics.
As always, the producers at American Masters have done a remarkable job of capturing the life and talents of an artist who managed to remain an enigma for the better part of his career. Using timeless footage from The Tonight Show and his earlier career in television, along with great interviews with Carson contemporaries and admirers, this documentary weaves a wonderful story of a very complicated man who spent much of his career as the most powerful man in television. Some even argue that he was the most influential man in America, particularly during Watergate and presidential elections. One thing is for sure: he was the most influential man in my desire to want to work in television. My respect and admiration for Johnny Carson is as strong today as it was in 1972. I’m ecstatic that public television can bring this wonderful documentary to our viewers, and to remind us of how good late night television used to be. Johnny Carson: King of Late Night: American Masters premiers 8 p.m. Monday, May 14 with an encore at an hour more familiar to Tonight Show viewers, 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 16.
What’s your favorite Johnny Carson moment? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
In Performance at the White House “Burt Bacharach and Hal David: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song”
Surely as a public television fan you must have some familiarity with the work of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. The hits are too many to count, but some of my favorites include “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”In this new episode of In Performance at the White House a plethora of music stars unite to celebrate the stunning careers of Bacharach and David, and their receipt of this year’s Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. During the festivities at the White House musicians Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Arturo Sandoval and Stevie Wonder perform the songs of Bacharach and David. In Performance at the White House “Burt Bacharach and Hal David” premiers 8 p.m. Monday, May 21.