Nowadays, NBC has its own show, with Carson Daly. But for many years the peacock network stuck with its regular programming - that is to say, Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. Johnny didn't do a regular New Year's special per se, but especially during the years when he broadcast from New York, he'd cut away as the clock approached midnight to provide live coverage from Times Square. Here's a rare clip from New Year's Eve 1965, as Johnny goes to (I believe) Ben Grauer to watch the ball drop. (Note how the studio broadcast is in color, but the live remote is still black and white.) Frankly, from the looks of this footage, I think they'd already been celebrating back at the studio.
2011 has not been a great year, and there's a lot of apprehension about 2012 - the economy, the state of the nation at home, tensions overseas, the election. It's somewhat poignant listening to Ben talking about 1965 and all that had happened, particularly the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and his hopes that 1966 will be better. In fact, I thought as I watched this, the worst was yet to come - even more war, even more drugs, even more death, MLK, RFK, riots, and more. John Lindsay, the new mayor of New York, will turn out to be a disaster, and it will take the city until the time of Rudy Giulianni to return to its former glory. Carson himself will leave New York for Hollywood in a few years.
Tonight we hope that 2012 will be a better year. Personally, I think that it will - at least, let's hope that 2012 will be kinder to us than the end of the 1960s was to that crowd in Times Square on New Year's Eve, 1965.