December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

As a New Year's teaser, I thought I'd end 2012 with this video from the New Year's Eve 1965 broadcast of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Now, there are a couple of notable things about this clip.  First, it includes the rarely-seen 15-minute opening of the show, from 11:15-11:30pm ET.  See, Tonight originally ran for an hour and 45 minutes, back to the days when local news was usually only 15 minutes.  However, as the Jack Paar era gave way to Carson, and local news organizations matured in their coverage, more and more stations expanded their news to a full half hour.  NBC affiliates either showed Tonight on a delay after the news, or they just skipped the first 15 minutes altogether.

Needless to say, Carson soon tired of having his monologue cut, and from February 1965 on, he refused to do those first 15 minutes, leaving it to Ed McMahon and then-bandleader Skitch Henderson.  So this video offers us with a rare opportunity to see what those 15 minutes were like.  NBC eventually dropped that segment completely, and Tonight cut back to 90 minutes, and eventually to its current 60 minute length.  I would call this unfortunate, except I can't think of anyone who could be interesting enough for 90 minutes anymore.

However, for me the more interesting part of this clip comes just past the 6:00 mark, when we see NBC's schedule for New Year's Day.  And this, I have to say, perfectly encapsulates my memories of January 1.  The morning starts with the Orange Bowl Parade, taped the previous night (the parade, like the game itself, was a nighttime affair; NBC eventually showed the parade live as well), followed by the Tournament of Roses Parade.  And then, my highlight: NBC's Bowl Day Triple-Header, starting with the Sugar Bowl (Missouri over Florida), continued with the Rose Bowl (UCLA shocking #1 Michigan State), and ending under the lights at the Orange Bowl (Alabama dispatching Nebraska).  The triple-header was only made possible by the Orange Bowl's move to prime-time the previous year, and would continue until the Sugar moved to ABC in 1970.  But for me (and a lot of people, I suspect), not having to change the channels all day was a mighty appealing idea.

The games were different back then, as was almost everything else.  This year the national championship doesn't get settled for another week, and the luster of all of the games has been diminished.  I accept this as a fact of life; you can't live in the past forever, no matter how hard you try.  I do feel sorry, though, for those who never experienced those simple pleasures the way we did.

But then, that's what this blog is about.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks to all of you for making this such a satisfying year.  We'll all meet again next year!

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