Johnny Carson: The Death of Class

Johnny Carson is dead. He is survived by voyeuristic reality shows, self-indulgent celebrities and news-as-entertainment.

Instead of basking in the spotlight after leaving The Tonight Show in 2002, he politely shunned attention, choosing a retirement that will be remembered for its dignity and integrity. He didn’t come back, cash in, comment or carouse – he played tennis, played cards, and watched the medium he helped build be reduced to sound, fury, so much nothing.

Television missed Johnny Carson, though I doubt television today would have recognized him. He was a link to an era of civility we may never see again, or at least as long as Rupert Murdoch owns a network.

Buddy Holly’s death in 1959 was “the day the music died.” Television died when the Jerry Springer Show debuted in 1991. Now Johnny Carson is dead – and so is class.

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