Talk shows were a bit different back in the day. And not that far back, as I wonder if we can detect a sea change occurring sometime around, oh, say...1992. That was the year Johnny Carson left the desk at the Tonight Show. Since then, the late-night vacuum has been filled by pretenders to the throne, filling their couches with B-list celebrities, and every nut and slut milking their fifteen minutes of fame.
Andrea Peyser at the New York Post reminds us that it wasn't always this way, as she writes about a Carson documentary currently airing on PBS:
Back then, 20 million viewers nightly came to expect not just comedians and singers but the greatest authors, intellectuals, politicians, satirists, columnists and you-name-it of the 20th century. Somehow, every one of them kept every one of those millions of viewers enthralled, occasionally appalled and always amused.
The clips, though, are the thing that will make you sad. They are so funny and so smart that you will be cowed by the fact that now idiotic starlets pushing the merch are the standard “get” and back then, the only “get” worth getting were the smartest, funniest and fastest thinkers on two (and sometimes four) feet.
As Jerry Seinfeld says, “There never was a ‘Tonight Show.’ It was Carson.
“When he left, that show never existed again.”
And nothing ever adequately replaced it. Instead, we are buffeted by the winds of the clown princes of late night TV, all of whom lack any real intellectual curiosity while sharing an identical ideology.
Things we've seen since Carson left...note a pattern, perhaps?
Carson was a liberal too, but he never fawned over the Left wing:
He avoided explicitly mentioning his views on Tonight, however, saying "I hate to be pinned down", as that would "hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am". As he explained in 1970, "In my living room I would argue for liberalization of abortion laws, divorce laws, and there are times when I would like to express a view on the air. I would love to have taken on Billy Graham. But I'm on TV five nights a week; I have nothing to gain by it and everything to lose."
Today's talk-show hosts, ensconced in the Hollywood bubble and separate from the masses of America in a way Carson never was, likely believe they don't have anything to lose (and perhaps much to gain) by openly mocking Republicans and lavish sycophantic praise on Democrats.
They should think twice. Just ask Oprah Winfrey...