Release Date(s)2017 (September 18, 2018)
Studio(s)CBS (Time Life/WEA)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C
The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special commemorates five decades since The Carol Burnett Show premiered on CBS. The network broadcast this valentine to the show on Sunday, December 3, 2017, attracting 15.4 million viewers. Taped at its original soundstage at Television City in Los Angeles, the special has a homey feel with Carol, original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, costume designer Bob Mackie, and special guests Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Steve Martin, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, and Amy Poehler sitting on a couch and sharing their memories. A liberal helping of original clips includes the Gone With the Wind spoof, The Dentist with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, and selections from the Tudball & Wiggins and the Family running skits.
Steven Colbert opens the show, followed by the old CBS Color logo. Carol Burnett does a brief Q & A with the audience, just the way she did at the opening of the original shows, only this time the questioners include Pat Boone and Tom Selleck. Then she announces, “We’re gonna crack open the time capsule.” She and her guests do just that, reminiscing nostalgically about the long-running variety show.
Jim Carrey relives the thrill he felt when he received a reply to his fan letter to the show. Colbert, Kristin Chenowith, Bernadette Peters, and Steve Lawrence join Carol in a new musical number. Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Steve Carell, and Tracie Ellis Ross try out Carol’s famous Tarzan yell, and the program concludes with Harry Connick, Jr. and Carol performing the show’s theme song, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.
Back in the 1960s, CBS asked Burnett to do a sitcom but she preferred a variety format where she could play different characters each week with a regular ensemble cast, as she had done successfully on The Garry Moore Show a few years earlier. Original regulars included Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. Frequent guest star Tim Conway would become a regular cast member in Season 8. Each week’s show was taped twice in front of different audiences and the best parts from each taping were edited together. Premiering in the fall of 1967, the show ran for 11 seasons.
The clips chosen have been shown often in TV reruns, previous retrospectives of The Carol Burnett Show, and in various Time Life DVD collections, and the testimonials wear thin after a while. The preponderance of guest stars – many of whom seem chosen for their name value alone – is unnecessary filler. It would have been nice if Ms. Burnett had related more never-before-heard backstage anecdotes. Still, the program is entertaining.
The DVD release includes two audio options, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. There is an option for optional English subtitles. Picture varies between widescreen for the new footage and1.33:1 for the vintage clips. Though the original clips lack the quality of the newer HD sections, they are reasonably sharp, with clear audio.
Bonus materials include red carpet footage, commercial break banter, anniversary messages to Carol, and a 12-page commemorative booklet.
Red Carpet Love – Celebrities including Lyle Waggoner, Bernadette Peters, Jim Carrey, Bill Hader, Vicki Lawrence, Harry Connick, Jr., Maya Rudolph, Jane Lynch, Jay Leno, and Martin Short gush over their affection for Burnett and the groundbreaking The Carol Burnett Show.
Commercial Break Banter – Carol chats with the audience, warmly greets dancers from the original show in the audience, discusses the impossibility of doing a variety show like The Carol Burnett Show today, talks about CBS not wanting her to hire non-professional Vicki Lawrence, and discusses the only time the CBS censors stepped in to nix a gag.
Anniversary Messages to Carol – These are unscripted backstage mini-tributes by famous entertainers to Carol and the program that inspired many of them. Ellen Degeneres, Steve Carell, Lily Tomlin, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Kimmel, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julie Andrews, and Emma Stone, among others, offer heartfelt accolades.
Booklet – In addition to a personal message from Carol, the booklet contains several color photos but none from the original show. Quotes from celebrities appear throughout. There is no information about the show’s history.
- Dennis Seuling