While NBC is shifting around their late night talent with Jay Leno leaving “The Tonight Show” next year, Jimmy Fallon taking over, and “Saturday Night Live” head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers taking over “Late Night,” they’re also planning a project focusing on one of their late night legends.
Variety reports the Peacock is developing a miniseries about the life and career of the late “The Tonight Show” host and comedian Johnny Carson, using Bill Zehme’s forthcoming book Carson the Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait as the source material.
The book was actually going to be the source material for a feature film biopic with Hitchcock writer John McLaughlin and the film’s producer Tom Thayer, but it sounds like NBC is taking the reins now.
Zeheme is the best source of information on Carson since he was the only journalist who got access to the comedian following his retirement from entertainment, which resulted in an extensive 2002 profile in Esquire. The miniseries would cover the 30 years that Carson spent on the late night show, in addition to his childhood in Nebraska and the life Carson kept private off camera.
The journalist behind the book is no stranger to the late night TV circuit as he’s also written several features on the late night battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman. If you’d like to check out some of the work that Zeheme did chronicling Carson’s life in documentary form, the American Masters title King of Late Night, an Emmy-nominated PBS documentary about Carson’s career, is available to watch on Netflix right here.
The question remains as to who has the chops to bring Carson to life comedically and dramatically. Dana Carvey pulled off one of the best impersonations on “Saturday Night Live,” but he’s too old to play the younger years in Carson’s life now. Maybe Neil Patrick Harris could pull it off? We’ll have to wait and see.
Carson’s life is ripe with material for a great story in show business, and there’s likely the potential for a lot of other famous comedians from years past to show up. However, the trade points out the project is not yet working with Johnny Carson Entertainment Group, responsible for all things related to Carson and run by his nephew and former “Tonight Show” producer, Jeff Sotzing. He says, “It’s a little early in the game.” Stay tuned.
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