It seems fitting that The Best of the Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Edition allows fans not only a chance to get the full experience, but sample 16 episodes spanning the entire run. First up, is the inaugural episode featuring Gomer Pyle himself, Jim Nabors. Burnett and Nabors were longtime friends. Their chemistry is immediately obvious. Nabors was a guest on the show a total of 12 times over the years, even quitting Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C to try his hand at his own, unsuccessful variety show. A little rough around the edges, yes, but this episode sets the tone for the years that would follow. The basic formula is set: audience Q&A, guest star, sketches, and a little music.
As the episodes on this set can attest, Carol was surrounded by an incredibly talented cast from the start. Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles), Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. Even after all these years, it seems hard to believe that Tim Conway wasn’t a cast member until season 9, but rather a guest performer. He was around enough to establish some regular characters, though. Harvey Korman played a series of beleaguered males. Vicki Lawrence, just 18 when the series began, she often played Carol’s sister. Lyle was mainly the announcer, and occasional man candy.
The guests featured on these episodes include: Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Hayworth (Gilda), Rock Hudson (All That Heaven Allows) Steve Lawrence, Liza Minnelli (Cabaret), Bernadette Peters (The Jerk), Carl Reiner (Ocean’s Thirteen), Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights), James Stewart (North By Northwest).
Many of the sketches are real classics. “Carol and Sis,” “The Family,” which would serve as the springboard for the popular ’80s sitcom Mama’s Family, the dizzy secretary Mrs. Wiggins and her exasperated boss Mr. Tudball, “The Oldest Man” and the soap opera “As the Stomach Turns.” There are also plenty of music numbers too. Carol gets to show off her considerable singing talents, both singing alone, and along with various cast members, and guest stars. On one show in 1973, Vicki Lawrence sang her hit record, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” written by her then husband Bobby Russell.
It should also be said that the special two-hour series finale is part of this set.
While The Best of The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Edition is a very small slice of the series’ 279 total episodes, it serves as a solid primer for those interested in watching some ‘complete episodes,’ perhaps before investing in one of the pricier Carol Burnett Show box sets released over the last few years.
Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the series was shot on standard definition video, so some glitches are apparent. However, there is nothing egregious, and the viewing experience is satisfactory.
The standard digital mono audio track does the job, providing clean, concise dialogue. The iconic theme song sounds great, and I only noticed a few pops throughout the entire set.
The following extras are available:
- 11 Years of Laughter on The Carol Burnett Show (27:09) Carol, Lyle, Vicki, Tim and several guest stars discuss what made the sketches work so well.
- Bonus Bloopers: Includes Dogs Life.
- Interview: Jim Bailey (9:44) The famed female impersonator discusses how appearing on Carol was a real breakthrough.
- The End of 11 Years: Saying So Long (11:20) The final year with Carol. Writers, guest stars and stars inspired by the show share their memories.
- Interview: Carol Burnett (16:19) The star reflects on her long run.
Movie title: The Best of The Carol Burnett Show (50th Anniversary Edition) (2017)
Director(s): Dave Powers, Clark Jones
Actor(s): Carol Burnett , Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman , Tim Conway , Lyle Waggoner
Genre: Variety, Comedy