This was Television on May 22

1992: Johnny steps down

Johnny Carson capped a 30-year reign as the King of Late Night after hosting his final episode of NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. While his penultimate episode featured Bette Midler’s famous tribute/serenade, Carson’s swan song was an intimate retrospective with no guests and an audience composed only of invited friends and family. An estimated 50 million Americans tuned in to say goodbye to one of the medium’s most popular stars of all-time.

Equally deft at opening monologues, celebrity interviews, comedy sketches, and occasional improvisation, Carson set a template that would be followed by the booster crop of late night programs that followed in his wake. He was Tonight‘s third host, following Steve Allen and Jack Paar, and his retirement sparked a heated kerfuffle when NBC had to choose between Jay Leno and David Letterman to inherit his role. -A.D.

Today’s Birthdays: Anna Belknap, detective (41); Frank Converse, cop (75); Michael Constantine, principal (86); Ann Cusack, character actress (52); Ginnifer Goodwin, fairy tale denizen (35); Sean Gunn, Stars Hollovian (39); A.J. Langer, best friend (39); Mark Christopher Lawrence, store manager (49); Quinn Martin, producer (d. 1987); Johnny Olson, announcer (d. 1985); Barbara Parkins, character actress (71); Maggie Q, secret agent (34); Susan Strasberg, character actress (d. 1999); Paul Winfield, character actor (d. 2004).

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