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R2 Revisits Carson Country

23 Oct, 2006 By: John Latchem

Johnny Carson as Carnac

With its compilations of vintage television programs, R2 Entertainment has allowed generations of fans to relive some of the greatest moments in TV history.

One of R2's more popular sets was the three-DVD Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection, which compiled some of the funniest moments of Carson's 1962-92 stint hosting NBC's “The Tonight Show.”

R2 has again teamed with the Carson Entertainment Group to produce two new DVD collections, The Best of Carson Vol. 1 and Carson Country, both streeting Nov. 7.

“Over 30 years, there is so much great material that you could put out a number of collections, and they'd all be very entertaining,” said Brian Hepner, marketing director at R2.

The three-disc, $39.99 Best of Carson Vol. 1 contains footage new to DVD that wasn't already included in the Ultimate Collection. Featured are moments from a variety of the show's segments, including Carson's monologues, Carnac the Magnificent, Aunt Blabby, visits from wildlife handler Jim Fowler, sports heroes, fan-favorite guests and stand-up comics.

The DVDs include an early performance from Steve Martin, as well as Ellen Degeneres' “Tonight Show” debut.

Also included are appearances by the likes of Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield and Garry Shandling.

“It really is a who's who of show business,” Hepner said.

Among the more than four hours of bonus material is the segment “The Lost Episode,” featuring unrehearsed antics after Carson receives an unannounced visit from Bob Hope, Dean Martin and George Gobel.

Also included are “Tonight Show Memories” highlights and a gallery of rare photos, including pictures of Carson on the set during his first night on the “Tonight Show.” Recordings of the broadcasts for Carson's first 10 years were not saved by the network, making any footage from this era a rare find.

R2 decided to put out the $14.99 Carson Country as a themed DVD because “a couple of key performances stood out,” Hepner said.

This country-Western flavored collection includes musical performances by The Judds, Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens, and even a rare 1964 kinescope of Johnny Cash performing “Ring of Fire.” Also featured are appearances by John Wayne and “Bonanza's” Michael Landon, a quick-draw display by Roy Rogers, and Carson taking on legendary Hollywood stuntmen Hal Needham and Doug McClure.

Extras include “Backstage at ‘The Tonight Show’ and Landon playing a practical joke on Carson.

For the Ultimate Collection in 2003, R2 began by making the DVDs available through direct response and, when that proved successful, retail outlets. Hepner said R2 will pursue a similar strategy for the latest DVD sets, but will make them available at retail from the outset.

“The direct-response program should create demand for consumers to find the title at retail,” he said.

To that end, an infomercial promoting the new DVDs will begin airing within the next few weeks.

“It highlights the best Carson moments, but it plays like an entertainment program,” Hepner said of the television spot.

More information is available at johnnycarson.com.

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