06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
NBC (Tuesdays-Fridays, 11:30 p.m. ET)
You've heard it all already: Johnny Carson takes too many days off, he's not as adventuresome as he used to be, not as fresh. Bull. Carson is still the genius of TV talk. He is the best informal interviewer there is, the best at making people feel comfortable, at letting them have fun on the air. He is the master of comic timing. There's no surprise in any of that; Carson is as much a part of America as French fries and shopping malls. Joan Rivers is another matter. She was just signed to another season as "permanent guest host" for Johnny (scheduled to sit in for eight weeks out of the next year). Rivers is good—wry and funny when she's on a roll. But she's not as comforting as Carson and not as willing to let her guests shine; it is far easier to overdose on her. She's a better guest than guest host. Too bad the producers did not continue to experiment with hosts; the variety alone would make Tonight without Johnny more interesting.