The long goodbye concludes tonight

May 22, 1992|By David Zurawik

One of the longest goodbyes in TV history finally ends tonight with Johnny Carson's signing off forever as host of "The Tonight Show."

Under the heading of "All politics are local," though, Baltimore area viewers might be seeing the taped broadcast of Carson's last show a bit later than the rest of the country.

The show is scheduled to air at 11:35 p.m. tonight on Channel 2, but WMAR management said it won't start the Carson tape until the Baltimore Orioles' game against the California Angels ends and 35 minutes of local news with Stan Stovall and Sally Thorner have aired. On Tuesday, "The Tonight Show" started about 15 minutes late because of a baseball game and local news.

If you've been watching Carson this farewell week, you've seen a lot more emotion from the audience and the guests than from Carson. Wednesday night, the audience's over-enthusiasm made chopped liver out of Carson's famed timing during his monologue. The applause and calls bled into the punch lines and resulted in a jerky, stop-and-start delivery by Carson.

One of the week's nicer moments came when the usually loud-loud-loud Mel Brooks sat down on Carson's guest couch Tuesday to talk about the passage of time since his appearance on Carson's first show in 1962. "Where did it (time) go?" Brooks asked. "I did the show, sat down, had a cup of a coffee and a danish, and now I'm 65." It was fast, funny and far more poignant than anything the 66-year-old Carson said that night.

Carson has no guests planned for tonight. It is going to be Carson, bandleader Doc Severinsen and sidekick Ed McMahon. Carson said that he will talk about what the show has meant to him. The promise of seeing Carson talk about his feelings makes tonight's show must-see in its own right. Carson is from another age and sensibility, and he has overstayed his welcome, but tonight's last goodbye after 30 years surely qualifies as a TV event.

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