With reruns of The Carol Burnett Show on almost every night, it’s hard to believe that we could be celebrating the 50th anniversary, but celebrate they did, and we got to watch. In December 2017, CBS aired Carol and friends return to Stage 33 at Television City and on September 18, 2018, Time Life released the special on DVD.
The special is everything that you would expect and more. The “more” is not always good, but different. There have been numerous specials over the years celebrating and reminiscing about the wonderful comedy created by Carol, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Tim Conway, and a weekly parade of talented guests. Previous specials followed the same format for the most part. Carol sitting on a couch with Vicki, Harvey, Lyle, and Tim, watching clips from the show. Sadly, on the 50th anniversary; Harvey is no longer with us and Tim was ill and not able to attend. Other than a brief message from Tim, this special is not about who isn’t there, but more about who is. There really is no mention of the passing of Harvey, but more just the sharing of fond memories with stars who are clearly fans of the show.
The special begins as you would expect, with Carol on the stage taking questions from the audience. What you wouldn’t expect is to see stars such as Pat Boone and Tom Selleck sitting in the audience, and yes, asking questions. When we do get to the couch, Carol is indeed joined by Lyle and Vicki at different points, but there is also a plethora of comedians, singers, talk-show hosts, etc., who are there to celebrate, participate, and yes, in some cases irritate. There is a strong Saturday Night Live presence, and an unusual rotation of guests, almost as if they did not have as many as they wanted. Each guest shares how much they loved the show and Carol. Unfortunately, there is more reflection on how the show impacted them, and less about memories of specific sketches they remember, which would have made the format more successful. We just don’t need to watch that many people tell us they love Carol and the show. We know that already. Give us clips! Martin Short goes a bit over the top with his antics, which is not surprising, but he virtually ignores the presence of Jim Carrey when they are on together and that creates a wonderfully awkward moment.
We do see all the clips you would expect, and the time with Vicki, Lyle, and costume designer Bob Mackie give us what we really want; the show. Let’s not talk to celebrities about what they thought about the show; let’s talk about the show! We get a brief wave to some of the original dancers from the show who are sitting in the audience. Let’s get them up on stage. They were there! They were part of it! I want to hear their stories! Let’s hear from people directly involved in the show rather than Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Kaley Cuoco, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Jane Lynch, etc., all of which are just going to tell us what we already know; people loved the show. There were a few guests such as Bernadette Peters and Steve Lawrence, who were on the original show. We needed to hear far more from them. People standing around a piano singing with Carol? I’m thinking some people may have enjoyed that.
Recommendation: The bonus material consisting of red carpet and backstage footage is far too brief as is the Tribute Booklet included in the DVD. The classics sketches are edited too tightly here and ultimately, we don’t get enough of what we want. We all love Carol and we do get plenty of her, so, this could make a reasonably pleasant Christmas present.