Johnny Carson on his “Tonight” set.
NBC — the network where the late Johnny Carson was truly the king of late night for 30 years — is developing a mini-series about the iconic “Tonight” host, based on Chicagoan Bill Zehme’s upcoming biography, “Carson The Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait,” set to be published by Simon & Schuster.
According to Variety, casting for the miniseries is expected to begin soon.
†I’ll bet many Sun-Times readers have good ideas on who should play Carson. Tweet them to me @billzwecker with the hashtag #HeresJohnny.
†Reportedly, the NBC project will not only cover Carson’s three-decade run on “Tonight” (1962-92), but also delve into his growing-up years in Nebraska, his strong desire for a very private off-screen life and the friendships he made along the way.
†A clearly delighted Zehme told this column Thursday night he’s happy NBC has given the go-ahead to the Carson mini-series, which Zehme is co-producing with his fellow Chicago pal John Davies, whom he worked with on Zehme’s 2002 “Second City Presents” Bravo series of in-depth interviews with comedians.
“I felt strongly that any Carson biopic belonged on television, where smart elegant work is becoming status quo,” Zehme said. “Johnny was created FOR television (my book will explain) and the big screen made no sense to me at all. Put him where we loved him best.”
As for Zehme’s book, he says his “Carson opus-in-progress” still has another year’s work left for him to do.
†Earlier this summer, NBC found itself in the middle of a great deal of controversy over another proposed mini-series — the one planned about former secretary of state and expected 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s unlikely the peacock network will find itself facing any similar brouhaha over the Carson project.
Other NBC mini-series in the works — part of the network’s long-range plan to create long-form programming — include mini-series or limited series updating “Rosemary’s Baby,” Stephen King’s “Tommyknockers,” “Plymouth — about the pilgrims 17th Century landing in Massachusetts and “AD After the Bible,” a limited series sequel to Mark Burnett’s TV hit, “The Bible.”