The packaging here states “For the first time ever, Carol Burnett has opened the CBS archives to release Christmas shows from the first four seasons of her Emmy Award-winning program.” But they were lost!? How big is the CBS archives!? Don’t they have some type of filing system!? Sigh.
Well, in 2013 Time life gave us Christmas with Carol, which featured two episodes from the later years of the classic series. It was a Christmas gift better left unopened. This new release had me filled with optimism. An episode from 1967 with Jonathan Winters and Barbara Eden? That has gold written all over it. An episode from 1969 with Durward Kirby and Garry Moore? Okay, that might not mean as much to most, but there is a history there with Carol that makes this worth getting excited about. Finally, an episode form 1970, with Kirby back again, Steve Lawrence, and Julie Budd. I had to google Budd. Nonetheless, this is good stuff!
In the words of Neal Sedaka: “Oh! Carol, I am but a fool”. My first clue of trouble was the running time of the single-disk release, which came in at 137 minutes. Three episodes “As they originally aired on television”. Hmmmm, that doesn’t seem to add up.
Ok, well, let’s dive in.
There is plenty of fun in the first episode. The Q&A garners some good laughs. Barbara Eden’s rendition of “Bend It” is interesting and fun. The sketches are cute with a cool guest appearance in the “Mrs. Invisible Man” piece. Jonathan Winters adds genius to everything he is in and he manages to crack Harvey up which is always fun, but ultimately this episode reminds us that times, and comedy, have changed. The big laughs aren’t here because we see the jokes coming due to the fact that the premises and tools utilized to generate laughs have been copied many times over the years. This takes nothing away from the talent of this amazing cast, writers, crew, etc. This show was arguably the best of the variety series and certainly ahead of its time.
The best episode of the three comes from 1969 and reunites Carol, Garry, and Durward, from their time on The Garry Moore Show. The chemistry amongst these three and the series regulars is amazing. It’s just a lot of talent sharing one screen and working together like a well-oiled machine. Neil Simon penned a courtroom sketch originally performed on Moore's show that is classic comedy of that era. The humor still holds up and features a surprise guest handling the stenography. The other sketches are almost as much fun, and the music in this episode, aside from an awfully funny Tom Jones impersonation by Harvey, is wonderful. The performance by Bob Mitchell's Singing Boys is pleasant but the interview with them is awkward.
Everything that the second episode has, the third seems to lack. Steve Lawrence and Julie Budd are talented singers who give fine performances, but the episode lacks the comedy we have come to expect. Then it happens. The send-up of the 1939 film Golden Boy, which is cute but relies too much on sight gags (Steve Lawrence in a fat suit), ends, and the next scene is the cast saying good night. Judging from their wardrobes, they have clearly just finished a holiday-themed musical number. A number that was probably amazing considering the talent on the stage, but we didn’t get to see it!
Recommendation: Nope. Not only is there no bonus material, but there isn’t even all the material we were promised. No recommendation from me till they go back into the archives and find the scene that is apparently still lost.