Sunday, February 22, 2015

Classic TV: The Carol Burnett Show (1967)

For 11 seasons, Carol Burnett charmed audiences with her weekly variety show, a mix of sketch comedy, audience participation (usually during the monologues), and elaborate, Broadway style musical numbers.

Contrary to what most folks might believe, Carol's core supporting cast wasn't always together for the entirety of those 11 seasons (1967-78). For example, Tim Conway (ex-McHale's Navy) was trying his hand at headlining his own show at the time Burnett's series started. Unfortunately, Rango, for ABC, was a dud. Two self-titled series, one a variety show, came and went on CBS 3 years later. It wasn't until season 9 when Conway finally came aboard, after Burnett had appeared on his 1970 show. Lyle Waggoner had moved on (to Wonder Woman), and Conway filled the void, creating his own distinctive, goofy characters, including Mr. Tudball, whose professional relationship with his secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Burnett in a blonde wig), became instant classics.

Harvey Korman left after season 10, lured away by ABC to do his own show, which also was a failure. Frequent guest Dick Van Dyke was brought in to fill the void, but didn't stay very long. The writing was on the wall, and Burnett chose to end the series on her terms, in March 1978.

Perhaps the most popular skit was "The Family", which ultimately was spun off, following a reunion special in the 80's, into the NBC series, Mama's Family, though only Vicki Lawrence reprised her role from the original skits. Burnett would return as Eunice periodically, but between NBC & syndication, Mama gained iconic status of its own.

Last month, Me-TV acquired the syndicated Carol Burnett & Friends rerun package that was last seen locally during the 80's. What I didn't know at the time was that the package only collected material from seasons 6-10 (1972-7). A DVD release that has been hawked on TV the last couple of years, initially through Guthy-Renker and now Time-Life/Starvista, should address the absence of material from the 1st 5 seasons.

Let's scope out the first ever Tudball/Wiggins skit:

Most of what I saw on The Carol Burnett Show came from the syndicated package, though I did see a few 1st run episodes during the final 2 seasons. Bear in mind, it didn't always air on Saturdays. It started on Mondays, then Wednesdays, then Saturdays, and moved to Sundays at the end of the run.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I remember watching the syndicated reruns on Ch. 5 back in the late 70s-early 80s. They were cut to a half hour and the musical numbers were cut. I had no idea so much of the show was missing!

I bought one of the DVD sets advertised and the sketches are hilarious still! So much talent from writing to performers!

What's a tragedy is that an infomercial for the CB DVDs is far more entertaining than most of what's been on the tube lately.

hobbyfan said...

I'm with you. Funny thing is, and I found this out from the Dean Martin Roast DVD's, is that some of these mail-order DVD's do find their way into the retail market after all. I've seen at least one Burnett DVD at Rite-Aid, for example.

Yes, the syndicated package is a 1/2-hour, emphasizing skits rather than the musical numbers. I have a mind to get that one DVD that's readily available to get a better feel.