Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’ Returns To Cincinnati TV Jan. 1

Aug 13, 2015

Johnny Carson in 1970.
Credit Wikipedia

Update 4 p.m. 08/13/15: As I suspected, Tribune executive Sean Compton grew up as a huge Johnny Carson fan in Connersville, Ind., watching “The Tonight Show” while listening to his father (Dale “The Truckin’ Bozo” Sommers) on WLW-AM.

Compton, Tribune president for strategic programming and acquisitions, for years had wanted to get rights for Carson’s “Tonight Show,” which will debut Jan. 1 on Tribune’s Antenna TV network.

Tired of being told it was impossible, Compton reached out to Carson’s nephew, Carson Entertainment President Jeff Sotzing, through a mutual friend. Compton, a former WLW-AM and Jacor Communications employee, explained all in this email to me:

“This was NOT easy to do… Jeff’s job is to help protect the legacy of his amazing uncle… This deal was all about one thing, protecting and showcasing that legacy in a way that Johnny would approve.  I was sincere and honest with Jeff the whole way through, made sure he knew of our plans to run it in a way that viewers would want to see it (in late-night seven days a week, with few to no edits).

“As a kid I lived in Connersville Indiana.  We didn’t change our time six months of the year, so in the summer I’d watch Johnny twice.  Once on WLWT, and then again on WTHR in Indianapolis, as they delayed prime/late night half the year to stay on consistent Indiana time. 

“I had two TV’s in my room growing up and five radios. I listened to distant stations, and often had my ear on The Bozo while watching Johnny. 

“I actually found two (Carson) episodes -- one where Johnny was talking about a WKRC radio promotion in 1988, and an episode where Loretta Lynn talked about listening to country and western music on WCKY-AM -- … while screening EVERY episode of Johnny from 1972-1992.

“For six months every night including weekends I was screening episodes. We picked our first year, 365 episodes, and they are amazing!

“We need our low-power Cincinnati affiliate to get us on cable so Cincy can see this show. Start a movement, will you!!!”

Original post at :11:18 a.m. 08/13/15: Heeere’s Johnny! Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” returns to television after a 24-year absence on the Antenna TV network aired by low-power WOTH-TV (Channel 20.3).

Entire Carson “Tonight Shows” have not been broadcast since he retired in May 1992.  Clips of Carson’s late-night interviews aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in recent years.

The shows were acquired for Antenna TV, owned by Tribune Media Co., by Sean Compton, a former WLW-AM and Jacor Communications employee.

“This is not a clip show. This is full episodes of Johnny Carson, the man that everyone in late-night agrees was the greatest host of all time, airing in real time as he did back in the day,” said Compton, Tribune’s president of strategic programming and acquisitions, in an interview with Variety

Antenna TV obtained rights to all “Tonight Shows” hosted by Carson from 1972 -- when it moved from New York to the Los Angeles suburban of Burbank -- to 1992, except for the final two shows, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Shows with guests hosts are not included.

Antenna TV will call the series “Johnny Carson,” since NBC owns rights to “The Tonight Show.”

One-hour shows from 1980-92 will air weeknights at 11 p.m. EST On weekends, Antenna TV will air 90-minute shows from 1972-80 at 10 p.m. EST. Carson cut the show to an hour in 1980. He died in 2005 at age 79.

Compton is the Tribune executive who made Bill Cunningham a CW network daytime TV star. He’s the son of the late Dale “Truckin’ Bozo” Sommers, WLW-AM’s former overnight host.

Here's my blog last month about Antenna TV debuting here  when Block Broadcasting revived WOTH-TV on Channel 20, to go with his low-power WKRP TV programming on Channel 25. The stations, broadcast from the WCPO-TV tower in Walnut Hills, are not carried by Time Warner Cable.

Antenna TV’s lineup includes “All In The Family,” “Newhart,” “The Jeffersons,” “Three’s Company,” “One Day At A Time,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “Sanford and Son,” “The Monkees,” “The Flying Nun,” “Partridge Family,” “Mister Ed,” “Green Acres,” “Bewitched,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “Gidget,” “Here Come the Brides,” “Jack Benny,” “Flipper,” “Maude,” “Evening Shade,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Alfred Hitchcock” and “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.”