The Carol Burnett Show Carols Favorites Collectors Edition from Time Life Entertainment
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If you were around a television set in the 1960s and '70s, you were probably a fan of Carol Burnett, whose I'll-do-anything comedic attack made her the essential link between Lucille Ball and every comedienne who ever found success on Saturday Night Live, from Gilda Radner to Tina Fey. Burnett's variety show ran from 1967 to 1978 and produced 278 episodes, so this six-disc selection is only the tip of the iceberg. It's subtitled Carol's Favorites and features 16 episodes in full, lending a representative taste of the show's wacky vibe. Certain legendary sketches had to be included, including "Went with the Wind," a send-up of Gone with the Wind that had Carol making one of the great walk-on sight gags in the history of television. Among the other movie parodies, a spoof of the Airport series of airborne disaster pictures is especially good at skewering the clichés of the genre.
The guest stars are a collection of '70s TV faces: Dinah Shore, Roddy McDowall, Betty White, and Carol's favorites Jim Nabors and Ken Berry. A few are unexpected--Maggie Smith and Joanne Woodward, for instance--and there's a memorable appearance by the Jackson 5 during which a sketch is interrupted by a mild earthquake (the cameras keep running and Burnett ad-libs like a master). You'll also see some installments of "The Family," the ongoing sketch that, at its best, walked an interesting line between hilarity and quiet (or loud) desperation. The time-capsule aspects that really date the show are the famously crazy costumes by Bob Mackie and the old-school variety-show musical numbers, some of which have a sincerity that was already unfashionable by 1974--although it should be noted that a musical spoof of "Little Red Riding Hood," performed in Spanish by a supposed Mexican troupe, is a surreal exercise that predicts a later kind of conceptual comedy. Burnett's talents extend to her weekly improvs with the audience, and the comedy gold mined by Harvey Korman and Tim Conway remains glittering.
The extras include a good long (46 minutes!) interview with Korman and Conway riffing on each other; a couple of tributes/profiles of the show and Burnett that emphasize her status as a female comedy pioneer; a 35-minute cast reunion with Burnett, Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner; brief (and randomly scattered) intros to certain episodes, with Burnett, Korman, and Conway; a full 33-minute episode of The Garry Moore Show, where Burnett came to prominence as a cast member; and other reminiscences. A 12-page booklet describes the set's episodes and sketches--especially useful because the shows here are not presented in chronological order. --Robert Horton