Judge Patrick Naugle has long fancied himself a modern-day Mr. Tudball.
Our review of The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up The Lights, published June 21st, 2005, is also available.
Mop and hair net not included.
Settle in for a night of belly laughs with Carol and company in the critically acclaimed, long running variety series The Carol Burnett Show! Starting in 1967, the series ran for eleven seasons (wrapping in 1978), racking up an impressive twenty five prime time Emmys, and introducing the world to not only Carol but also Tim Conway (The Private Eyes), Harvey Korman (High Anxiety), and Vicki Lawrence (Mama's Family). This group of talented ensemble players went on to skewer everything from the White House and daytime television to Shakespeare and beyond!
Few programs remind me of my childhood as indelibly as The Carol Burnett Show. It's a show I hadn't revisited in almost twenty five years. The melancholy theme song—complete with an animated version of Carol as a cleaning lady—has long been burned into my conciousness. It's a show I recall finding absolutely hysterical, as did my mother. We would sit for hours watching reruns in the evening and laughing ourselves silly. Although I don't have a lot of specific recollections—just fleeting moments of Tim Conway falling down or Harvey Korman acting like a buffoon—I remember it being something that made me very happy. After sitting through The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites, I am elated to report it's a show that still makes me smile.
There are many amusing moments here, assumingly hand picked by Carol herself. This six disc set is chock full classic episodes and guest stars. One of my favorites features actor Roddy McDowall in full Planet of the Apes makeup, acting as if there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. When asked by Carol if there is a specific performance he wants to talk about, she's relieved when he tells her there is. Roddy then launches into a speech from Cleopatra which immediately cracks up the audience. But the best is yet to come, when the two perform a duet: Carol dressed to the hilt while singing to a talking ape. That's one of the wonderful things about The Carol Burnett Show—it feels like almost anyone can pop in for a visit. It was a lot of fun watching horror king Vincent Price starring as a country bumpkin in "The Walnuts," a spoof off the then popular series The Waltons. In another sketch, Oscar nominated actress Joanne Woodward (wife of the late Paul Newman) drops by to play a woman who no one wants to dance with and bursts into a dramatically funny musical number with Carol.
The show also features one of television's most beloved characters—who eventually got her own spin-off show—Thelma Harper (aka Mama). Vicki Lawrence's amusing take on Mrs. Harper—all bouffant gray hair and outdated dresses—is shrill and amusing. Mama's down home accent and nosey personality perfectly complement Carol as Eunice, Mama's annoying and lively daughter. This particular sketch (known as "The Family") would become a fan favorite and resurface multiple times over the years. Various actors floated in to play Thelma's children, including Roddy McDowall, Alan Alda, and Tommy Smothers (later replaced by Ken Berry in the weekly series). The spinoff played down the edginess of these sketches (one involves two women getting drunk and threatening to punch Mrs. Harper in the face), but the originals are still a lot of fun.
The Carol Burnett Show wasn't just a comedy program, but also a variety show that featured some of the day's hottest acts. The Jackson Five, Glen Campbell, Captain and Tennille, Perry Como, Robert Goulet, The Carpenters, Ray Charles, and Natalie Cole all stop by to perform some of their biggest hits. But comedy was definitely the show's strongest asset, drawing not only a large fan base, but also a lot of famous faces: Steve Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Dick Van Dyke, Ruth Buzzi, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, and even future president Ronald Reagan all make guest appearances on the show, often lampooning themselves. Some of these episodes are just plain bizarre. In one instance, Carol plays a high school teacher who teaches the Jackson 5 how to count, learn, and sing in the classroom, erupting into a full blown musical number. Seeing Michael Jackson looking like a normal, everyday teenager is truly bittersweet.
Fans of the show will gleefully enjoy classic moments, such as the wonderfully surreal "As the Stomach Turns" sketches (a take off of the popular soap opera As The World Turns), and "A Salute to 20th Century Fox" featuring Carol outdoing Carmen Miranda by slapping the equivalent of a grocery store's produce section on her head. The Carol Burnett Show truly had an epic cast of characters. On one side was the ladies, Carol and Vicki, both adept at playing wigged out wackos (Carol's sense of timing was more than impeccable; it was downright uncanny). On the other side were the men, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Lyle Waggoner (to a far lesser extent). Korman and Conway were such a wonderfully goofy team I wish someone would have made at least one movie with the two of them playing off each other. Nobody played stuffy snobbery better than Korman, and Conway was king of the cross-eyed pratfall.
As much as I enjoyed The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites, there were times when the episodes dragged quite a bit. Like most variety shows, the series suffers from being a product of its era. There are moments when certain names, brands, and historical events flew right over my head. It's hard to fault the writers or performers; a show dealing with current events dating itself comes with the territory.
Presented in its original standard definition 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, the show looks good, but not great. I didn't notice anything overtly wrong with these transfers, it's just that the image never really pops, retaining a drab color scheme, and an intangible element that just makes everything feel dated. I won't say this is the best The Carol Burnett Show will ever look, because it seems there's room for improvement, but in the grand scheme of things it certainly appears more than passable.
There isn't a single mention anywhere about the sound mix, so I assume it's a straight forward Dolby 2.0 Mono track, which is what it sounds like to my untrained ear. The audio does the job, though there isn't much range to be heard from this front heavy series. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
On the plus side, The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites sports a few bonus features, the best being episode intros with Burnett, Conway, and Korman sitting around talking about what it was like to produce the show. Disc One includes a televised cast reunion ("Let's Bump Up The Lights") with Conway, Korman, Burnett, Waggoner, and Lawrence; as well as a retrospective on the series ("I Want To Push That Button") and a rarely seen sketch called "The Dentist." Disc Three includes a "Supergirl" sketch with Carol Burnett, a few interviews, and a featurette titled "Ahhhh, Mrs. Wiggins." Disc Six hosts a short documentary on Carol as a TV pioneer ("Leading Lady"), a 2004 interview with Korman and Conway ("Harvey Korman & Tim Conway: Together Again"), and interviews with Betty White and Carl Reiner.
Overall, I heartily recommend The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites as a nice collection of skits, sketches, and musical numbers from sharp comedians at the peak of their careers. Although somewhat dated, this is family friendly entertainment that will undoubtedly provide hours of laughter and memories.
Not Guilty. A fun throwback to a simpler time.
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