Just in time for the holidays, Time Life Entertainment brings us this single disc release featuring two episodes from the classic Carol Burnett Show plus bonus material. One will certainly open this case with the anticipation and excitement of a Christmas morning in hopes of finding something truly special. Unfortunately, the gift garners the same disappointment as finding socks and underwear wrapped up under the tree.
The two episodes we receive are from transitional periods in the show’s history and thus lack the comedic chemistry the show was known for. Lyle Waggoner may have been known more for his looks than his comedic ability, but he knew how to play a straight man and allow the funny people around him to shine. After his departure, the show featured Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence as the comedic players in sketches with Carol and that is the case in the first episode on this release. Alan Alda appears as the guest star, but the writing in this episode fails to truly allow these stars to display their comedic chops and instead leaves them chomping on scenery.
In this episode we get an enjoyable opening Q&A with audience members presenting Carol with gifts, and a young girl bursting into tears after meeting Alda. The Christmas sketch featuring Mama’s family just seems forced and tired as the writers appear desperate to find a way to work Alda in, and rely too much on facial expressions by the cast to get laughs where the script fails to provide any.
The musical number with Burnett and Alda as department-store employees is pleasant and works well as a lead in to the next sketch in which the two are dating, but the premise for the dating sketch is tired and obvious, and yields few laughs. The New York-themed finale could have been more geared towards Christmas, and Waggoner was clearly missed as Korman and Lawrence are distractingly over used.
The second episode on the release is from 1977 and features Tim Conway, who had joined the cast, along with Lawrence and guest starts Ken Berry and Helen Reddy. Unfortunately, Korman had left the show by then and thus, much like the first episode, there was clearly magic missing. The opening Q&A is brief and awkward as Carol seems off her normal game.
The Christmas sketch with Mrs. Wiggins and Mr. Tudball is one of the more enjoyable pieces on this DVD and provides wonderful trivia as Mrs. Wiggins first name is revealed (Wanda). Unfortunately, the scene falls flat with the appearance of Mrs. Tudball (Lawrence) in an ending that is far too contrived.
Helen Reddy performs in a somewhat Christmas-themed number that was far better suited for Burnett as it fails to allow Reddy to truly display her vocal skills. A sketch with Burnett and Berry as a married couple being visited by a German representative of the water company in search of water-wasters was cute at best, relying on Conway’s accent for the majority of the laughs. Berry’s song-and-dance number manages to display his talents and an art form that has sadly been lost.
Two sketches loosely tied together by current events feature Lawrence as a fast-talking stewardess in a one-joke bit, and Conway as a Senator who took a bribe. It is in this sketch with Conway where Korman is so clearly missed. With Korman as the chairman of the committee, this scene could have been far more enjoyable.
The “Strike Up the Band” finale featuring the entire cast with Berry and Reddy is enjoyable, but a Christmas theme would have seemed more appropriate. Burnett ends the show with a song about all holidays that is certainly unique.
The Bonus material contains both hits and misses. The appearance of Jonathan Winters makes little sense and does not belong on this release. The Christmas Sketch with Carol and Sid Caesar should have been much funnier considering the comedic talent.
Carol singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” as her cleaning-woman character is the best thing on the DVD and will certainly remind all of why we love her and this show, and she has fun singing “The Twelve Days After Christmas” in another number.
Recommendation: Perhaps this is all the Christmas material available, but considering the show ran for twelve years, that is certainly doubtful. Ultimately, there is just not enough quality here to warrant spending money on this. If someone gives it to you for Christmas, you can probably find the time to watch it over the course of the year since it has less than two hours of material, and then regift it the following year at your office gift exchange. Sadly, it’s not worth keeping.