Television Reviews

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show – Show Stoppers: A Too-Small Taste of a Great Show

Growing up, Saturday nights were reserved for one thing in my house, The Carol Burnett Show. Her brand of humor was rich, diverse, and inoffensive. It was something we watched together as a family and when I watched this DVD brought back some warm memories.

This special was first aired on CBS television in 2001 with the DVD release coming in 2002. The hour-long special is trimmed to just 40 minutes. That’s hardly time enough to cover even some of the great skits which were on the show over the eleven-year run. The commercial segues have been left in which is somewhat disconcerting.

Her regular cast of Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Tim Conway are here. What’s missing is Lyle Waggoner who was on the show for the first seven seasons from 1967-1974 in one capacity or another. Also, Dick Van Dyke joined the cast for one season in 1977 and that is not acknowledged here either.

Carol introduces the special much the same way she did her television show. She comes out on the same stage to a live audience and takes questions. Harvey, Vicki, and Tim come out on stage as well and they all reminisce and answer questions.

There are clips from the show, some of which I couldn’t wait to see again. Who can forget Carol singing You Light Up My Life while bathing a stupefied Tim Conway in a metal bathtub and then climbing in with him? There are clips from all of her shows as Eunice with Momma which almost always degenerated into a shouting match between the “family”. This was a great offset to many of those “perfect” families on television during that period. Remember Harvey Korman in drag? Carol as Charo’s mother? The horse urinated while Carol was singing? Carol as the Queen of England?

One of the things I always loved best is when they cracked each other up. Tim Conway was notorious for doing this and often cracked Harvey Korman up in the middle of their scenes together. They explained that this often happened because Tim would perform his part as scripted in his regular voice during rehearsal and then when the time came to film it, he would change what he was saying and how he said it. In some ways, it was more improvisation than a rehearsed show. A lot of the comedy is slapstick having to do with physical stunts, but the interaction between the players is hysterical too.

The main problem is that what we get are clips, not the entire sketches performed on the show. I would have liked to be able to view the skits in their entirety. They also have been “edited for television” in that the times when they yelled at each other and got a little off-color have been bleeped out. If there was ever a show that screamed for a DVD release of the entire season, this is definitely one of them.

While the DVD brought back some warm memories, I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more. If you’re a fan of the show and want some nice memories, this might fit the bill but it isn’t worth watching more than once. I also wouldn’t recommend using this as a way of showing someone what was so wonderful about this show. It’s just too short with short clips that don’t do the show justice.

*Note, the entire series is available for viewing on IMDB TV

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