DAVID BIANCULLI

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THERE'S... JOHNNY!
November 16, 2017  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

Hulu, 3:00 a.m. ET

 

SERIES PREMIERE: This period comedy series, co-created by Paul Reiser of Mad about You fame and David Steven Simon, tells the story of a 19-year-old who misinterprets a form letter from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as a job offer, and leaves Nebraska for Hollywood, where he ends up working on Tonight, circa 1972. Ian Nelson plays the Carson-adoring young man, and Jane Levy, who starred in Suburgatory, immediately becomes the show’s real comic and soulful center as Joy, an assistant talent coordinator with plenty of attitude, appeal, work issues and family problems. There’s… Johnny! is structured like The Larry Sanders Show, showing both behind-the-scenes and on-air segments – except that the “on-air” portions, in this program, are taken directly from vintage Tonight Show episodes. We not only see Johnny in peak form in these clips, but his guests as well: George Carlin, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield and so on. Those segments are retrofitted into subplots built partly around them, and it’s all cleverly constructed. And Tony Danza plays the show’s one actual backstage character based on a real person: Fred De Cordova, the long-time Tonight Show executive producer. (And he nails De Cordova perfectly.) Some of the more dramatic bits in this first season play a bit clunkily, but the humor is solid – and Levy, as Joy, isn’t a star in the making. She’s a star, ready-made. All seven episodes from Season 1 stream today.

 
 
 
 
 
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