Variety shows were all the rage in the seventies and The Carol Burnett Show was one of the best.
With a small team of regulars and big name guest stars, Carol Burnett put on a weekly, family-friendly series that combined humor, songs, dance and pop culture madness. And though slapstick humor was a sketch staple, the series also worked with clever word play and even strayed into the realm of dramedy on many occasions
In “Carol’s Favorites”, the first DVD in The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection from TimeLife, Carol and guest Roddy McDowall tell a complete story speaking only one word at a time. That’s brilliant writing, but it’s the acting and the timing, that makes it work. Earlier in the episode, the two of them go for pure silliness, when Roddy appears in full Planet of the Apes make-up while Carol gently tries to tell him that he has something on his face. Apes fans will also enjoy the tiny snippet of a home movie of Roddy getting made-up for the occasion.
In the same episode, you’ll see the very first Mama’s Family sketch. Carol plays Eunice Harper, a plain Jane living a hum drum life with a domineering mother and Southern yokel husband. But Eunice dreams of living the good life, of gaining fame as a dancer or singer or author and we can’t help feeling sorry for her as we see her hopes dashed to pieces time and time again.
Instead of relying on sight gags and slapstick, Mama’s Family’s humor comes from the heart. It’s an early try at the kind of comedy we see now in shows like Modern Family and Gilmore Girls. It’s funny because we see ourselves in this dysfunctional family, even though we’re loath to admit it.
Carol’s Favorites features 16 uncut episodes, that for some odd reason, aren’t delivered in chronological order. That’s a shame, because it would be nice to watch the evolution of regular characters like Mrs. Wiggins and Norma Desmond in their proper order.
Guest stars run the gamut from Hollywood legends like Vincent Price and Rock Hudson, to TV favorites like Betty White and Carl Reiner. Joan Rivers (Fashion Police) does her stand-up act, Pearl Bailey thrills the audience with her amazing voice and wait until you see The Jackson Five reacting to a real earthquake that hit during the live performance.
And while we’re talking music, how about a round of applause for Carol’s dance troop who often did triple duty filling out the backgrounds of several sketches. Don Crichton, you stole my heart as a girl and I’d waltz with you, any day.
But as much as I love a good production number, my favorite part of The Carol Burnett Show are the movie parodies. In this DVD set you’ll see Steve Martin join in on Beach Blanket Boo-Boo, Ken Berry joins them for Babes in Barns (a parody of the Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney films), and it’s Sunset Blvd all over again when Carol takes on the role of Norma Desmond.
The best movie parody on this set is Disaster 75, a cliche-ridden salute to the Airport film franchise that was so popular in the era. It has all the required elements, overly cheerful singing nuns, a crazed bomber, and a stewardess forced to land the plane when the pilots leave the cabin through a hole in the hull. It’s spot on.
The most famous Carol Burnett movie parody is probably Went with the Wind. The Gone with the Wind parody gave the show one of its most infamous moments – Carol coming down the stairs in the curtain rod dress.
“I saw it in a window and couldn’t resist.”
My all-time favorite Carol Burnett movie parody is a toss up between Jaws and The Exorcist.
The Exorcist sketch was part of the recurring soap opera As the Stomach Turns. Bernadette Peters played Raven, Carol’s niece who is possessed by the devil. Tim Conway takes on the title roll using his Mr. Tudball Swedish accent. He saves sweet Raven by showing her symbols of goodness and purity including Pat Boone’s white shoe and a photo of Doris Day drinking milk.
In Jowls, Harvey Korman plays a mighty fine Quint as he and Tim Conway hunt a sewer shark roaming the pipes of an apartment building. When the two men try to top each other’s fishtales, you won’t be the only one laughing. “If only she hadn’t been wearing her lucky ham!”
If you’d like own the entire series, click on this big link and order it directly from TimeLife.
Get The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection. 50 classic episodes hand-picked by Carol plus 12 hours of bonus features! Order today for 5 easy payments of $39.99 (Price: $199.95) and get FREE Shipping at TimeLife.com.
If you’d like to own the six-disc set Carol’s Favorites, you can pick that up on Amazon.
Or you can win a copy right here.
Win The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Favorite on DVD
GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. THE WINNERS ARE
I have three copies of this six-disc set to give away and all you have to do is leave a comment and you’re entered. It would be great if you left your favorite Carol Burnett memory, but I won’t fault you if you’re too young to remember the show.
Rules: (gotta have ’em)
Deadline to enter is Tuesday, September 25 at midnight PST. That’s the street date for the entire collection.
US entries only.
Three winners will be chosen by random draw and the winners will be notified by email. You’ll have 72 hours to respond with your mailing address or we’ll pick a new winner.
Good luck and good laughs!