NBC Has a Johnny Carson Miniseries in the Works – Who Should Play the King of Late Night?

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Johnny Carson Miniseries NBCHeeeere’s Johnny…’s biopic!

NBC is in the process of creating a miniseries based on the life of longtime Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, the network announced Thursday.

Based on Bill Zehme’s forthcoming biography Carson the Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait, the project will encompass the comedian’s three decades as NBC’s king of late night, his upbringing in Nebraska and his personal life away from the television cameras.

Carson, of course, emceed Tonight from 1962 until 1992, when he handed the show over to current host Jay Leno.

RELATED | Jay Leno to Depart The Tonight Show in February

No word yet on when the Carson miniseries may air.

Who would you like to see play Carnac the Magnificent? Sound off in the comments!



Comments (50)

  • this is an odd ball choice, but Steve Martin came to mind

    Comment by Bender – September 19, 2013 10:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Not odd at all, that was my first thought as well.

      Comment by Znachki – September 19, 2013 11:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • It seems they need to have a younger person that they can “age” since it’s going to cover 30 years..Steven Martin is too old to play a younger Carson

      Comment by dj – September 19, 2013 03:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Jim Carrey

    Comment by Gregg – September 19, 2013 10:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • dana carvey

    Comment by Robert in Jersey City – September 19, 2013 10:59 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • NPH!

    Comment by Chris – September 19, 2013 11:00 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Neil Patrick Harris would knock it out of the park.

    Comment by KidsDrDave – September 19, 2013 11:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. You need someone comparatively young, with serious comic acting skills. It would be a good next step after HIMYM finished.

      Comment by RockGolf (@rock_golf) – September 19, 2013 12:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I was about to name somebody else – then I saw you nom NPH. I agree. He needs to have something major coming off that TV series. But for Leno? I suggest Adolf Hitler… ;-)

        Comment by jukeofurl – September 20, 2013 12:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree. He’s the right age and make-up could do the rest plus he has that sly smile and twinkle in his eye that Carson had…that “I’m putting you on” look.

      Comment by The Beach – September 19, 2013 03:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Jason Sudeikis

    Comment by wmjindsm – September 19, 2013 11:05 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The American Masters documentary “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night” is a must see for any Carson fan.

    Comment by Hamish – September 19, 2013 11:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Kevin Spacey does an AMAZING Johnny Carson. YouTube it.

    Comment by Chris – September 19, 2013 11:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Kevin Spacey was my first choice as well. Letterman gets him to do his impression every time he is on. :)

      Comment by Kim R – September 19, 2013 01:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the acting chops to pull it off & actually bears a striking physical resemblance to a young Johnny Carson:

    Photo of Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
    http://sciencefiction.com/2013/01/03/joseph-gordon-levitt-as-quill-in-guardians-of-the-galaxy/

    Photo of a young Johnny Carson:
    http://www.insideedition.com/entertainment/5159-lost-footage-of-johnny-carson-uncovered

    Comment by Tom Murnane – September 19, 2013 11:19 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Tracy Morgan

    Comment by Brian – September 19, 2013 11:30 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Steve Carell would be a great choice. Bears a passing resemblance to Carson and he’s more than proven himself capable of serious yet comic performances (Little Miss Sunshine, The Way Way Back, “The Office”). Plus, he has ties to Universal and a history as a TV star. And maybe this will give Emmy voters a chance to apologize for snubbing him!

    Comment by Buddy – September 19, 2013 11:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Martin Freeman

    Comment by Ben – September 19, 2013 11:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Shouldn’t the GOP be deciding this? After all, they run the NBC miniseries division.

    Comment by Jo – September 19, 2013 11:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Zing! Good one. :)

      Comment by maggie – September 19, 2013 07:03 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • John Slattery!

    Comment by Renee – September 19, 2013 11:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • John Slattery could play him….assuming he’s funny too

    Comment by Kim C – September 19, 2013 11:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • See the newest season of Arrested Development. He was one of the high points.

      Comment by topoopon – September 19, 2013 02:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Greg Kinnear

    Comment by DCTodd – September 19, 2013 11:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rob Lowe

    Comment by Greg Beck – September 19, 2013 11:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Dana Carvey

    Comment by Patricia – September 19, 2013 11:56 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • They’ll need someone younger than the obvious choices above (Carvey, etc.) if it’s going to cover his career at NBC. It’s much easier to make someone young look old than the other way around.

    Comment by Elf – September 19, 2013 12:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Kevin Spacey – watch him on Inside The Actor’s Studio

    Comment by Philly In DC – September 19, 2013 12:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Jim Parsons

    Comment by Rob – September 19, 2013 12:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Is it going to be an honest, warts-and-all biopic, or is it going to completely gloss over Carson’s personal problems? This, after all, is a man who allegedly beat one of his ex-wives in front of shocked partigoers. Not to mention how he “shamed” comedians on his talk show (after they did their act, he only let them sit on the couch next to him if he thought they were funny). And how he had Joan Rivers blacklisted from the Tonight Show (that weasel Leno still won’t have her on, in deference to Johnny). Carson was undoubtedly a television legend, but not a good man.

    Comment by Jscott – September 19, 2013 12:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • The strange thing is that Carson was close friends with Letterman, not Leno. Yet Letterman has Joan Rivers on his show.

      I don’t know if Carson wasn’t a good man, but I do think he was a complicated man. The mini-series will only work if they show the real Carson.

      Comment by maggie – September 19, 2013 07:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Carson banned Joan Rivers from the show because he made her a star and behind his back she and her husband set up a show to air opposite his on Fox. She never told him and he found out by reading the trades. That was a major screw-up on her part. She was a coward for not going to Carson and telling him what she wanted to do. By all accounts, if she had been up front with him he would have supported her. He felt betrayed that she went behind his back.

      Comment by rowan77 – September 20, 2013 01:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • an unknown

    Comment by Chris G. – September 19, 2013 12:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Neil Patrick Harris would be great. Bill Hader does excellent impressions so I’m sure he could pull it off as well.

    Comment by Steven – September 19, 2013 12:32 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • If its his whole life, I would say Joseph Gordon Levitt to play younger and Kevin Spacey to play older. Why Kevin Spacey you ask, just watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc4GSuOdH0E

    Comment by Scooter Smith (@scoboot) – September 19, 2013 12:44 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I was thinking this; since its going to span 30+ years perhaps it would be better to have two actors, one to get the first half, the other in the second half.

      Comment by the girl – September 19, 2013 01:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Scooter, that’s a great idea.

      Comment by maggie – September 19, 2013 07:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Neil Patrick Harris! I don’t want someone to do a caricature of Johnny as I think Dana Carvey might. NPH would do an outstanding job.

    Comment by Bobbi – September 19, 2013 12:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ben Afleck

    Comment by Kirti Patel – September 19, 2013 01:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I was just going to make that joke!

      But seriously, Affleck should never be allowed to act again… not that he ever has before.

      Comment by Drew – September 19, 2013 01:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sean Hayes, quick with a double take, sly snide, charming and hilarious.

    Comment by JCK – September 19, 2013 01:28 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Bill Heder

    Comment by Jess – September 19, 2013 02:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Interesting idea, Scooter…While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is clearly the most obvious choice to play Carson based on close physical resemblance, overall acting ability & age (I believe he’s only about 5 years younger than Carson was when he took over the Tonight Show), I’d also be interested in seeing what someone like Colin Hanks could do with it. Still, in the end, JGL seems to be the best fit.

    Comment by Tom Murnane – September 19, 2013 02:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think Clark Gregg would be a good choice, he can do comedy and drama.

    Comment by lora mclendon – September 19, 2013 03:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • It would have to be a young person that they can “age” over 30 years. You can’t start with someone who is 50 or 60 years old. Aging them is a lot easier than making them look thirty years younger

    Comment by dj – September 19, 2013 03:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Jeffrey Donovan

    Comment by wi – September 19, 2013 03:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He did not hand the show over to Jay Leno, it was ripped away from him and given to Jay Leno

    Comment by kraw hitham (@_krawhitham) – September 19, 2013 05:31 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Who should play Johnny? Remember, NBC is behind this production … that means here comes Lorne Michaels. I guess Michaels will select someone from SNL to play Carson. Here we go again. Maybe Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers? I guess we’ll need to wait to see who Michaels selects.

    Comment by .... Oh boy, NBC is behind this effort. – September 20, 2013 09:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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