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TCM nabs ‘Tonight Show’ interviews

Johnny Carson's chats with classic stars coming to cabler

Johnny Carson’s interviews with classic stars will be coming to a Turner Classic Movies, with documentarian Peter Jones — who produced the recent PBS biography of “The Tonight Show” host — repackaging them into a showcase titled “Carson on TCM.”

“Carson” will begin next summer, initially packaging five interviews into specials, then using individual chats as interstitial programming. The idea grew out of Jones’ documentary “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night,” which garnered two Emmy nominations.

Jones has been working with Carson Entertainment Group, which is under the stewardship of Carson’s former producer and nephew, Jeff Sotzing. In 2010, Sotzing took the massive Carson archive of more than 3,300 hours of “Tonight Show” programs — which had been physically stored previously in a Kansas salt mine — and had it digitized, making specific clips available on a searchable basis. The plan was to recoup the investment through licensing and repackaging opportunities, such as this, as well as a DVD collection.

The 50 interviews include numerous Oscar winners and TCM stalwarts, among them Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, William Holden, Gregory Peck, James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor. Some have not been seen since they were originally broadcast.

In 2006, TCM licensed episodes of “The Dick Cavett Show,” also featuring vintage interviews with well-known celebrities. Jones’ productions for the network have included the documentary “Stardust: The Bette Davis Story.”

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