'The Story of Late Night' Ep. 1 Review
CNN’s new six-part docuseries “The Story of Late Night” begins this Sunday May 2nd at 9pm. I’ve screened the first episode (titled “Inventing Late Night”), which breezes through the ‘50s and most of the ‘60s at a fairly rapid pace.
This isn’t the most thorough look at the origins of network programming at 11:30pm. And there are WAY too many people interviewed over the 42 minutes. But there are some real highlights:
Bill Allen, Steve Allen’s son, comments on his dad’s experiences and impact as the first “Tonight Show” host. Frankly, a whole episode with Bill Allen talking about his father would be fantastic.
Dick Cavett reflects on his getting his start in the biz as a writer for Jack Paar during his “Tonight Show” run.
There’s a brief but very interesting section on “America After Dark”, NBC’s failed 1957 late night program in between the first edition of “Tonight” and its revival.
Even if you’re a diehard talk show fan, you may not know the name Faye Emerson. She was the first true late night TV host, on CBS from 1949 to 1951.
And as the episode closes with Johnny Carson’s first half dozen years on “The Tonight Show”, we get insights from Carson’s nephew, Jeff Sotzing.
Episode 2 of “The Story of Late Night” will be dominated by Carson. I also hope it acknowledges Ed McMahon and the role of a sidekick, as well as Carson’s competition at the time, including Joey Bishop & Regis Philbin on ABC. Episodes 3 & 4 will focus on David Letterman’s rise and his rivalry with Jay Leno (though neither are interviewed for this series). And the final two eps. will look at the hosts of my lifetime, on network and cable TV.
I’ll keep watching, and if you’re into Late Night TV, it’s worth tuning-in. Just anticipate a menu of content, not an encyclopedia.