Like many people, I was very annoyed with the overpriced ripoff that was the "Classic Episodes" set of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that instead gave us hacked up 30 minute versions with all kinds of disgraceful signs of cost-cutting (editing out any trace of guests that we weren't supposed to see). So when Carson Entertainment announced the debut of this "Vault" series and promised that in response to the fans requests we were finally going to get releases of UNCUT shows, I was willing to let bygones be bygones and support this. I was even willing to look past the fact that the first two releases in #1 of this series are shows that have already been in the collectors trade circles for a number of years because I was willing to support the release of the most pristine version possible.
The disc came today. I pop it in and was greeted to a menu screen that I thought looked classy and nice. Resembling the Burbank vault, we see on the menu screen the option to watch either show, the 10/2/72 10th anniversary show or the 9/19/72 program with or without commercials. I press 9/19/72 with commercials option. I see the NBC peacock intro come up. And then......
I HEAR A REPLACED VERSION OF THE TONIGHT SHOW THEME! Not the live version played on that broadcast, but the pre-recorded one that Jeff Sotzing had inserted at the beginning of all those hacked up programs in the last set to cut down on music fees. That meant that Ed McMahon's reading of the guests is also eliminated and we hear this pick-up pre-recorded version of the them, totally counterfeit to what was broadcast that night playing until after Johnny enters.
I then noticed that even *with* commercials, the running time is only 76 minutes. If this were truly "uncut" and duplicating the episodes as we were able to obtain them from the Carson vault years ago, we would have been hearing the band playing during the commercial breaks when stations were running local ads (vault copies would only have commercials that aired on the network as a whole). So in this supposedly "uncut" version not only is a vital element of the program taken out AGAIN, but we also lose the other part of our ability to hear how good the band was.
To be fair, the 10/2/72 *does* leave in the correct "live" version of the theme and Ed's reading of the guests but it too is 76 minutes only with ads, meaning once again we lose the commercial bumper parts of the band playing.
I would have been willing to accept these things IF, they had said ahead of time that this was something they had to do in order to release these shows but Carson Entertainment sold these shows as UNCUT. They are NOT! Unless we hear the theme as Doc and the band played it on that show, then the program is compromised. And to leave out the band's playing during and coming back from commercial is not giving us the true archival presentation either.
Given the track record of how Jeff Sotizing has shown a total inability to understand the Carson fanbase and instead looked for every possible way to cut corners (the "Carson on TCM" programs BTW, cut out all traces of Ed McMahon!) for this to happen on what was supposed to be the moment when he was finally hearing the requests of the fans and to falsely sell these as "UNCUT" is IMO the crowning disgrace to the biggest mismanagement of a classic TV archive there has ever been.