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Carson left mark on television 

A SINGULAR LEGACY - Many of today's hipsters squeezing into Seven Jeans and enjoying the sublime comedy stylings of Adam Sandler probably never saw Johnny Carson on TV. Hopefully, obituaries this week for one of television's icons will do justice to the influence his Tonight Show has had on entertainers and TV in our time.

In his heyday, which lasted three decades, Carson was hotter than an iPod, back when 11:30pm on NBC was the original "must-see TV" for tens of millions. Carson's show (and it was "the Carson show," not "the Tonight Show" in everyday parlance) gave birth to the celebrity schmoozefest, the place to be seen if you had a hot record or movie, or had just won the big game or election. Then there's the legion of comedians who credit Carson for their big break, like Richard Pryor, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, Steve Martin, Joan Rivers and Jay Leno, to name but a scant few.

The big desk and the sidekick set-up has been imitated by everyone from Conan to Rosie O'Donnell, to Letterman and Leno, and for 30 years, even as the show began to look a little frayed and less hip by the late-80s, it was an American institution.

Carson was a public TV show host but a very private person, and had rarely been seen or heard from since his retirement in 1992. I like what he said in a rare 1992 interview: "The reason I really don't go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself."

When Tom Joyner talks, apparently Charlotte radio consumers listen. And then they listen some more. Trolling through the fall Arbitron ratings, it's obvious that the explosion at WQNC-FM continues, and that it's no fluke.

The Radio One-owned station, poached the Tom Joyner Morning Show from WBAV-FM last year, and hasn't looked back.

Check out these numbers: up 467 percent from mornings in 2003 with people aged 25-54, and now ranking number 1 between 6 and 10am, up 233 percent since the Fall ratings in 2003 as well.

And they say that one show doesn't make a radio station. In this case, Tom Joyner's urban AM national talkfest is doing just that for Hot 92.7.

WCNC-TV reporter Kara Finnstrom has gotten the nod to be the new weekend evening anchor at the NBC affiliate. Finnstrom has been at WCNC since 1997 and replaces Sterlin Benson Webber, whose contract was not renewed.

Also at WCNC-TV, they've won another national journalism award for an investigative series on Medicaid dental centers that profit from capping multiple teeth of young children. Only two local television stations in the US won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia award this year, and I cannot recall another Charlotte station ever winning it. WCNC has also won a Peabody Award for the same series.

Stay tuned.

E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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