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The private life Johnny Carson successfully kept off NBC will now be an NBC miniseries

While it was reported late last year that Johnny Carson’s inscrutable personal life was being considered for a feature film, it now looks as though the late comedian could be resurrected in a more familiar place: on NBC, where not even death is reason enough to get rid of a Tonight Show host. The network announced today via press release that it’s developing a miniseries about Carson, one that will cover his talk-show tenure, his Nebraskan childhood, and the “often-secluded off-camera life” he spent building off all those practice swings by hitting golf balls into the faces of the gagged-and-bound Vietnamese children he had specially imported to his private garden of torment. (“Ping, Ping, and Ping,” Carson would say, miming opening an envelope. “What is your name, what I’m about to do to your forehead, and the brand of ball I’m gonna do it with?”)

Though, actually, we have little idea of what Carson did in his spare time, and whether or not it really involved sadistic torture framed as a rusty Carnac routine. But as with the (now possibly scrapped?) feature film, we’ll get at least a little information out of the book it’s similarly based on, Bill Zehme’s long-in-the-works Carson The Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait, in which Zehme became one of the very few journalists to get a glimpse of Carson’s intensely private affairs that are now being splashed all over several nights of NBC programming, exactly like Johnny always tried to avoid. But as with so many intensely private men who are dead now, too bad.


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