And now Heeeere's Johnny's new contract.
Johnny Carson, who said he wanted out of the "Tonight" show 13 months ago, has signed a new three-year contract with NBC to continue with a shortened, one-hour version of the late-night talk and entertainment program.
Under terms of the new multimillion-dollar pact, Carson will appear four nights a week, Tuesday through Fridays, starting at 11:30 p.m. as of next September.
He currently appears three nights a week -- when his liberal vacation schedule permits -- with guest hosts and a Tuesday rerun filling out the rest of the weekly schedule.
NBC has not yet decided whether to use reruns or guest hosts for the Monday slot, under the revised schedule.
Missing from yesterday's network announcement were details of what NBC plans to do between 12:30 and 2 a.m. starting in September.
Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow" show will probably stay in the schedule, but there is some speculation it would remain at 1 a.m. as NBC News introduces a half-hour, late-night news program at 12:30 a.m.
Those details will apparently be revealed at the NBC affiliates meeting which begins May 18 out in Los Angeles.
In his monologue on last night's show, his first appearance since the announcement, Carson confirmed to his audience that he had signed again with NBC.
"I'll let you in on a secret," he said. "I didn't mean to; I was tricked.
Fred Silverman told me I was signing a petition to get Sheriff Lobo off the air.
"You've heard me talk about. . .my shrewd attorney, Bombastic [Henry] Bushkin, and he came in the other day and said, 'Johnny, I talked him into letting you work four days instead of three'. . . . I think you should also know, prior to working for me, Bushkin was the investment counselor for Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood."
Later on in the show, Carson waxed emotional. . .telling the audience, "I never wanted to particularly do specials or movies of the week. . . I like doing this kind of show, this is what I started out doing, and this is kind of pure television, this is stuff that ius happening now."
The new contract was first revealed Monday at the RCA stockholders meeting by Chairman Edgar Griffiths but was only announced publicly yesterday by NBC.
Carson's old contract was due to expire in the spring of next year.
But last April he shocked NBC, which was and still is trailing in the prime-time ratings race, by announcing that "after 17 years I'm getting a little tired" of the nightly grind of the show.
"I'm unhappy with the network," he said at the time. "I've been with them a long time and obviously this has not come at a good time for them."
At one time, he threatened to leave the program last fall but lawyers for Carson and NBC entered into secret and protracted negotiations in an attempt to resolve their problems.
Despite the fact that the shortened "Tonight" show could cost NBC millions in advertising revenues, Carson reportedly received a considerable raise over his current estimated $3-million annual salary. The program brings in an estimated $30 million in revenues and last year represented some 17 percent of NBC' profits.
A first break in the impasse occurred late last year when both sides agreed to let a Los Angeles judge determine whether, as Carson's attorneys believed, a state law permitted him to end his contract in April of this year, one year before NBC's attorneys claimed their pact ended.
Reportedly, that suit was resolved last week in Carson's favor so that he won the point -- brief freedom from NBC -- before signing his new contract.
While his old agreement had a "non-competition clause" preventing Carson from working for another network for one year after leaving NBC, the new contract has no such restriction.
Last symmer, it was revealed that Johnny Carson and his wife had spent some time socializing with ABC Inc. President Elton Rule and his wife on the French Riveria, sparking rumors that ABC was out to land the king of the late-night audiences.
As late as last month, Rule hosted a private party for Carson after the telecast of the 1980 Academy Awards, which were hosted by Carson on the ABC network.
However, sources indicated yesterday that ABC, wary of any charges of tampering with a contracted performer, never got down to serious contract talk with Carson.
Moreover, the recent performance of its late-night ABC News Nightline indicated to that network that Carson's hold on viewers might be slackening.
In the first five weeks since Nightline went on the air the week of March 24 of this year, the 20-minute ABC News program has beaten both the "Tonight" show and CBS's reruns every week in its time slot.
Carson is currently in his 18th year with the "Tonight" show.