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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Talk Show > Stand Up > Sketches > Music > Variety > TV > An Audience With Jasper Carrott – The Complete Series (1978/Network Region 2/Two/Import DVD) + The Don Lane Show (1980 – 1981/Umbrella/Region 4/Four/Import DVD Set) + Tonight – 40 Years Of The Tonight

An Audience With Jasper Carrott – The Complete Series (1978/Network Region 2/Two/Import DVD) + The Don Lane Show (1980 – 1981/Umbrella/Region 4/Four/Import DVD Set) + Tonight – 40 Years Of The Tonight Show staring Johnny Carson (R2 Entertainment DVD Box Set #2)


Picture: C/C+/C     Sound: C+     Extras: D/D/B     Episodes: C+/B/B+



PLEASE NOTE: The Jasper Carrott DVD can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Two/2 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Network U.K. at the website address provided at the end of the review, while the Don Lane DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Four/4 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided also at the end of the review.



When the talk show began on TV, it was intelligent, fun, interesting and many people created innovations along the way.  To separate it from radio, seeing big stars was a help, another was having musical guests on camera and even coming up with skits.  In all this, the variety show was a huge hit and in its peak time, segments similar to a variety show would start surfacing on talk shows.  No one integrated this better than Johnny Carson.


Since his retirement, one of the reasons no one was able to fill his space is because the talk shows became too talky, even boring and everyone wanted to be Carson.  Even now, heirs Letterman and Leno seem ready for retirement and are not as enthusiastic or ambitious as they used to be.  Ditto to the better other hosts and it is especially embarrassing in the case of those who just show up with a “hey, I have a talk show and just showing up is enough” attitude.  In this, I wanted to look at two such hosts overseas and compare them to Carson as a new Carson box set arrives on DVD.


First we will look at the British novelty singer, satirist and comedian Jasper Carrott.  He was an up and coming talent when in 1975, an amazing thing happened.  Like The Sex Pistols, he had a banned record that helped put him on the map.  Funky Moped was a hit, but the flipside (a controversial spoof of a children’s TV theme song to The Magic Roundabout) so the buzz and overall curiosity gave him a Top 5 U.K. hit in the tradition of The Streak.  That led to a hit TV show and it is now on DVD.


An Audience With Jasper Carrott – The Complete Series (1978) has all six episodes of his hit series on a single DVD and to carry a show all by yourself and make it funny is not easy.  Though I found it overall hit and miss, there is no doubt of his talent and appeal.  The audience is enjoying themselves and Carrott moved onto a major comedy career.  It is a unique, one-of-a-kind series and like nothing we have ever seen in the U.S. (though it is like seeing Seinfeld standup ending one of his hit show’s episodes).  He covers so many subjects like a stand-up, then has his own songs and other interludes.  Needless to say this is as ambitious as any U.S. talk show host today.


Moving to Australia, we go to the recently deceased, but highly popular personality Don Lane, a huge success down under for many years and like Carrott, one who should have made more of an impact in the States (though Carrott founded the original company that produced the international game show hit Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, so he can’t complain as much).


After finding success with The Don Lane Tonight Show (1965 – 1969), Lane made the rounds as one of the top entertainer/variety show hosts (not unlike Dick Cavett, but Lane sings) and this led to a second The Don Lane Show series that ran even longer between 1975 – 1983.  The new 8-DVD Don Lane Show set from Umbrella Entertainment covers the years 1980 – 1981 and has some amazing segments that plenty of people would be interested in seeing.


Besides all the good Australian content (including old promos and product placements), he has a ton of name guests doing rarely seen (especially in the U.S.) interviews and even delivering music performances.  Via satellite, he interviews Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (though he was in Australia, he was not on the same side of the country to be at the studio), Angie Dickinson for De Palma’s Dressed To Kill and Walter Matthau on Hopscotch.  A young Paul Hogan shows up for one show.  Peter Allen and Boz Scaggs show up together for another, though Scaggs does not sing any of his hits.  Stevie Wonder does a show, Dusty Springfield does another.


Kirk Douglas shows up for one, and Hall & Oates sing Kiss On My List to promote the Voices album.  But the wildest, most hilarious show here (intentionally and otherwise) has Valerie Perrine showing up to promote Can’t Stop The Music, her 1980 film with The Village People.  She is very candid about everything, including why Superman II was late and is in rare prime form here.  But she oddly does not stick around when The Village People actually show up and start singing their hits and songs form the new film.  Amazingly, the audience goes nuts and this is from a conservatively dressed audience.  You literally would think The Beatles had shown up.


That is the kind of fun and energy this set has and I am so glad it is on DVD.  I hope we see Lane’s whole catalog of work turn up on DVD because if it is this good, that means a huge amount of entertainment value ahead.


Last but certainly not least is a new box set of classic Johnny Carson material never released on DVD before.  Tonight – 40 Years Of The Tonight Show staring Johnny Carson is a 15-DVD box set with more great shows from The King Of Late Night.  Also know that it is a second big box set not to be confused with the first big set we covered at this link:





That includes links to other satellite Carson releases, though we also recommend the following single of his CBS TV work:





This new box has great footage throughout, but especially the lesser-seen 1960s segments that show Carson’s rise as one of TV’s greatest personalities.  Highlights are many an include a New Year’s Eve show with Woody Allen and The Muppets, a Vicki Carr/Peter Falk/Albert Brooks show, a Major Lindsay/Muhammad Ali/Harry Chapin show, a Burt Reynolds/Dom DeLuise/Art Carney show, a Don Rickles/Robert Blake show, one with Reynolds and Blake, a Doris Day/Rodney Dangerfield show, a great show with The Jackson 5 have their first and only appearance on the show with their last big Motown hit before they (save Jermaine) left for Epic records, then there is a Frank Sinatra show where Don Rickles joins Frank and Johnny unexpectedly.


Frank sings, but the musical guest is actually Olivia Newton-John, singing one of her early hits.  Sinatra raves about her before she even shows up and it is another one of those great moments.  Alice Cooper shows up on an episode with Jay Leno, Chevy Chase with Richard Pryor, David Letterman also makes an early appearance, Garry Shandling & Richard Benjamin, Sid Caesar & Eubie Blake, Carol Burnett & Burt Convy, Steve Landesburg & Loni Anderson, Jimmy Buffett, Robin Williams, Tina Turner, Dabney Coleman, Kenny Rogers, Brooke Shields, Bette Midler, Buddy Rich, Eddie Murphy, Bilk Clinton and so many others.  It is a rich set!


Extras include booklets with each of the four subsets, while the bonus programs include The Guests Remembered with new interviews on the show and over an hour of Rescued Gems Of The 60s.



The 1.33 X 1 image in all cases are shot on videotape, with very little in the way of film clips and hardly anything form the Carson set is off of a 16mm film dupe.  All are PAL analog videotapings save Carson, which is in analog professional NTSC video.  Flaws in all cases include staircasing, aliasing, some video noise, video banding, some tape scratching, tape damage and cross color, with Lane holding up the best, Carrott being a bit faded and the Carson set having more instances of digital blocking than I could have imagined.  I don’t know why this is, but it is there often and can be annoying.  Color is good in all cases.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound in all cases is Mono, though later Carson clips are simple stereo.  This is about what I expected in playback from all these sets, but all the footage across them could use some fixing and the Carson blocking needs to be looked into, but that would not stop me from buying the set.  The Lane and Carrott sets have no extras.



As noted above, you can order Japser Carrott PAL DVD import exclusively from Network U.K. at:









…and you can order the Don Lane PAL DVD import set exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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