Sets That Never Were…But Should Be! NBC Late Night Empire

by stevejrogers - 8 cards (Last updated on Jan 8, 2022)



1. 1991 Starline Hollywood Walk Of Fame #117 Steve Allen


Series I Steve Allen, Jack Paar 1954-1962

Main set on the Steve Allen (9/27/1954-1/25/1957) and Jack Paar (7/29/1957-3/30/1962) years.

Also spotlights Allen’s band leader Skitch Henderson, announcer Gene Rayburn. As well as Ernie Kovacs’ tenure as a guest host early in the week when Steverino was tabbed to host a Sunday prime time variety show.

As an aside, Ed Sullivan and clones (like Allen's) in the primetime weekly variety show genre through the decades would also be quite an epic set as well.

There is a brief time in-between Allen and Paar in 1957 that deserves a card, Tonight! America After Dark which was more akin to the Today Show than the comedy of Allen and Kovacs.

Jack Paar’s run would include his band leader José Melis and announcer for most of the run Hugh Downs. Subset would include various guest hosts, as well as the run of guests hosts between Paar’s last show and Johnny Carson’s first. Oddly enough, Carson was a fill-in guest for Paar on occasion.


2. 2011 Topps American Pie #82 Carson Takes Over the Tonight Show


Series II Johnny Carson I New York Years 1962-1972

Spotlights the early years of Carson's tenure, from 10/1/1962 to early 1972.

Announcer and sidekick Ed McMahon, and bandleaders Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinsen get spotlighted as well.


3. 1995 Angar International Who's Who #044 Johnny Carson


Series II Johnny Carson II LA Years 1972-1992

Carson's run in Burbank, 5/1/1972 through 5/22/1992, is really the Golden Age of the show, and probably deserves the biggest spotlight of this mega set.

For what its worth, this is probably due in large part to Carson wresting control of his content early in this time. Pretty much all of his New York years is lost to history due to film damage and being taped over. Its also in this time, 1980 to be exact, when re-broadcasts would become a standard way of filling in off-nights. And Carson Productions even have best of packages starting with the 1970s that have been produced for home video purposes.

Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen get another spotlight in this series, along with producer/executive producer Fred de Cordova who often bantered with Johnny during the show, and band member Tommy Newsom who filled in when Severinsen was off or was filling in for McMahon.

Another spotlight on this set would be the rise of guest stars such as David Brenner, Joan Rivers, and Jay Leno whom would fill in as Johnny had his workload lessened.

Also a big spotlight in this set, either in the set itself or as a chase insert, would be the standup comedians who performed over the years.

The Burbank move coincided with the rise of the LA standup comedy club scene. So the show would feature a Who's Who of 1970s and 1980s comics working on their sets on The Tonight Show. So the show pretty much was a huge gig to get for any working comedian during those years.


4. 1998 Topps WCW/nWo #41 Jay Leno


Series IV Jay Leno 1992-2009, 2010-2014

Easily the most polarizing host in the history of the franchise. Both with the way his tenures started (5/25/1992-5/29/2009 and 3/1/2010-2/6/2014) and his general appeal, or lack thereof in some regards as a comedian, interviewer and all around entertainer.

Announcer spotlights for Edd Hall, John Melendez, and Wally Wingert. And bandleader spotlights for Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks and Rickey Minor.

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5. 2009 Upper Deck Prominent Cuts - Prominent Cuts #PC-COB Conan O'Brien


Series V Conan O'Brien
The shortest set, but O'Brien should get a bigger nod in the subsequent series on the Late Night franchise.

In any event, this series will focus on his brief tenure 6/1/2009-1/22/2010.

Spotlights would include announcer/side kick Andy Richter, and band leader Max Weinberg. Both carrying over from their duties on the Late Night With Conan O'Brien show


6. 2016 Topps Garbage Pail Kids Prime Slime Trashy TV #1a Jimmy Fallin'


Series VI Jimmy Fallon

The current incarnation kicked off on 2/17/2014, and has been on the air ever since. Early in 2021 it was announced that Fallon would be host of the show for 5 more years.

Fallon brought the show's production back to New York, in fact the same studio 6B at Rockefeller Center that both Paar and Carson had used.

Like O'Brien, Fallon's announcer (though not a McMahon/Richter esque sidekick on the couch) Steve Higgins, and house band The Roots carried over from his tenure on Late Night. Both get spotlights here.


7. 1993 Freedom Press High School Heroes Series I #13 David Michael Letterman


Series VII Tomorrow and Late Night

I wondered if this should be a subset, or full blown set, but the Late Night franchise has been such an iconic powerhouse for the 12:30-1:30 timeslot, the post Tonight Show programing deserves its own series.

Covering;
Tomorrow with Tom Snyder 10/15/1973-12/17/1981. Rona Barrett was a co-host from October 1980 through June 1981.

Late Night With David Letterman 2/1/1982-6/25/1993
Spotlight cards on announcer Bill Wendell, and band leader Paul Shaffer.

Late Night with Conan O'Brien
9/13/1993-2/20/2009
Spotlight cards on announcer Joel Godard, Ed McMahon inspired sidekick on the couch Andy Richter, and band leader Max Weinberg.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
3/2/2009-2/7/2014
Spotlight cards on announcer Steve Higgins and house band The Roots.

Late Night with Seth Meyers
2/24/2014-
Spotlight cards on announcer Ron McClary and bands Fred Armisen & The 8G Band, Cue Card Wally, and The Jackals.


8. 1992 Topps Stadium of Stars #NNO Bob Costas


Probably more of an insert, or a subset to pad out Series VII out would be cards spotlighting other NBC gabfest weekend late night shows. Basically keeping the same talk show formats as Tonight Show, Tomorrow and Late Night.

Music video programing, news magazines and sketch comedies (SCTV served as overnight programing for a while) do not count;

Later 8/22/1988-1/18/2001
Bob Costas 8/22/1988-2/25/1994

Greg Kinnear 2/28/1994-1996

Guest Hosts 1996-2000 Most prominently; Rita Sever, Cindy Crawford and Lynne Koplitz

Cynthia Garrett 1/31/2000-1/18/2001

Last Call with Carson Daly
1/8/2002-5/24/2019

A Little Late with Lilly Singh
9/16/2019-6/3/2021

Following A Little Late’s cancellation, the daily post Late Night timeslots went back to affiliate station's discretions.

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