The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol (DVD)

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In eleven years, and 278 episodes, The Carol Burnett Show never did a standalone Christmas special. In hindsight, that seems pretty amazing, given that the 1970’s was the era of annual yuletide greetings from the likes of Bob Hope, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and more. However, following in the spirit of the season, Carol and the gang always seemed to find time for some holiday themed episodes, and sketches. Just in time for the season, StarVista and Time-Life have released The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol, bringing together three hours of some of the series most memorable odes to Christmas. Like the show itself, some of the skits are funnier than others, but for fans, it’s wonderful to have them all available again.

The first episode, show #813 originally aired on December 21, 1974. Things begin at the always ‘interesting Higgins residence. With her younger brother Larry (Alan Alda) visiting for the first time in years, Eunice is determined to have a great Christmas? Decked out in a festive apron, refreshments and gifts ready; heck, Ed even has a red tie on. What could go wrong? As it turns out, once Mama and Ed arrive, everything!

No matter the situation, it seems like any involving “The Family” is funny. This holiday sketch isn’t warm and fuzzy by any stretch of the imagination, but the stress and tension the Higgins’ feel is likely something every one of us has been able to relate to at least once in our lives. There’s something real about it.

The next sketch, “Nobody Does It Like Me” is a complete change of pace. Alda is a soon-to-be unemployed department store Santa, while she’s all thumbs over in the gift-wrapping section. Yet even in the midst of last minute holiday hustle and bustle, the two are able to find peace, and remember the true meaning of the season.

“Morton of the Movies” moves away from Christmas, as Carol’s geeky, but seemingly suave date, uses lines from classic movies to woo her. Also featuring Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman as characters in movies playing on television, this skit will likely convince you that Alan and Carol have some serious chemistry! It’s obvious right from the first skit to the finale—a musical tribute to Manhattan, the place Alan called home even during those years, which found him back and forth to Los Angeles to film M*A*S*H—that the two actors enjoyed working together.

The second episode, show #1113 originally aired on December 18, 1977. Things begin with “Mrs. Wiggins Gets Bombed on Christmas.” Mrs. Wiggins (Burnett) and her exasperated boss Mr. Tudball (Tim Conway) are two of the funniest character to come out of the series, and this sketch is definitely a highlight of the disc. Mr. Tudball suggest the two share a drink to celebrate the holidays. They end up having a merry ol’ tome, and getting a buzz. When Mrs. Wiggins points out the presence of mistletoe, her boss is feeling no pain. Unfortunately for Mr. Tudball, his wife (Vicki) picks just that moment to pay him a visit…

Next, comes a performance from Helen Reddy. I suppose if your under thirty-five or so, Helen Reddy is one of those names that’s a potential head scratcher. One of the biggest recording stars of the 1970’s, by 1977 she had scored 10 top #20 hits (including the #1 “I Am Woman), was a frequent guest on variety shows, and had lent her voice to Pete’s Dragon, released theatrically by Disney that year. Here, she sings “Blue,” a single off her 1978 album, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” The way she actually performs the song is very sweet, and shows her versatility.

Once again, we move away from the holidays with a skit entitled “German Water Inspector.” Do I have to write anything else except to say that Tim Conway plays the German water inspector, to convince you that this one is hilarious? I thought not. Moving on…

Ken Berry proves himself to be much more than a comedian with this song and dance number, “Song and Dance Man.” Prior to seeing this sketch, I had no idea, that Ken Berry was such a strong tap dancer. The things you learn!

“Person’s Weekly Magazine” consists of two mini-sketches. Vicki plays a fast-talking stewardess aboard the Concorde; a senate ethics committee calls a witness, played by Ken Berry who wants to clear his conscience, and a Senator (Tim Conway) on the committee accepts a payoff. If you put this sketch in the context of the Watergate hearings, which weren’t in the too distant past at the time, this skit has a little bite.

There’s a nice “Strike Up the Band” musical finale featuring Carol, Helen Reddy, Vicki Lawrence and Kenny Berry. However, one can’t help but think something a little more seasonal would have been nice, given the vocal talent available.

Each episode contains a disclaimer at the beginning stating that some material may have occasional flaws in the image and sound quality, but the best materials were sought out in the making of this DVD. Given the series age, quality is too much of an issue. Presented in 4:3, the color isn’t what you would call vivid, but it’s not faded either. I did notice a few scratches here and there, but nothing that distracted from the overall viewing experience.

Presented in mono, the audio provides clear and rather concise dialogue throughout. The singing portions of the disc won’t give your set up a workout—very pedestrian stuff here—but the music sounds fine if a tad flat in a few spots. While not perfect, fans should be pleased to have this set available.

The following extras are included:

Show #017, Original Air Date: December 25, 1967

  • Q&AJonathan Winters: Always funny, Winters had his own show set to debut on the network in the new year.
  • Christmas Night Quarrel: Carol and one of comedy’s legends, Sid Caesar squabble over when to take the tree down.
  • Charwoman: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Carol offers a wonderful rendition of this Christmas standard.

Show #114, Original Air Date: December 30, 1968

  • The Twelve Days After Christmas: In prim and proper fashion, Carol sings a diddy Scrooge would be proud of.
  • Booklet: A four page episode guide is included inside the case.