Even if you’ve never seen it (a feat which I’m not sure how you would accomplish in today’s world), you know that The Carol Burnett Show was an epic success in 1960s and 70s television. The show ran for eleven years, collecting twenty-five Emmy awards, eight Golden Globes, and wound up on more than a few Best Show of All Time lists. It also nabbed more People’s Choice Awards for Carol Burnett herself than for any other actress in history. Now (yay!) out from Time Life is The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection.
The set includes episodes from the first five seasons (1967-72) that Burnett personally selected, and they haven’t been seen since their original airing over forty years ago. That means no home video, no streaming, and no syndication. In these episodes, we see the origins of what would later become much-loved staples of the show, including “The Oldest Man” with Tim Conway (in which he proved that he could be just as funny in slow motion as in hyper-motion), “Carol and Sis” with Burnett and Vicki Lawrence in the title roles, the soap opera send-up “As the Stomach Turns,” and more. In addition to the core cast, we also see many of the fabulous guest stars the show was known to attract such as Lucille Ball, Jim Nabors, Bing Crosby, Paul Lynde, Bob Newhart, Don Adams, Chita Rivera, Andy Griffith, Jonathan Winters and scads more.
[ad#amazon_lg_rt_300x600]It also features bonus content created especially for this collection. Some highlights among the featurettes are “On the Spot: Carol’s Q&A,” focusing on the show’s hallmark opening sequence where she warmed up the audience by inviting them to ask questions (an idea she took from her time on The Garry Moore Show), “The Making of a Mackie,” exploring the genius of costume designer Bob Mackie (whose work Carol Burnett loved so much he is still her designer for projects today), and “The Golden Age of the Variety Show,” honoring the era that included not only The Carol Burnett Show but Lawrence Welk, Sonny and Cher, Ed Sullivan, and more, all with spectacular presentations of music, dance, and comedy. (Those of you who keep having to ask your parents about stuff we talk about regarding classic television should check all of this out.) There are numerous additional featurettes, plus a backstage tour of the show’s studio, bonus sketches, episodes of Burnett on The Garry Moore Show, a writers’ roundtable and more.
Speaking of the more, there are a plethora of interviews recorded exclusively for this set featuring showbiz giants from both the show’s era and today such as Alan Alda, Steve Carell, Julie Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, Tina Fey, Bill Hader, Queen Latifah,, Burt Reynolds. There’s also two TV specials here for posterity: Once Upon a Mattress (starring Carol, Ken Berry and Bernadette Peters–it’s the Broadway show in which Burnett got her start) and Carol +2 (which features the incomparable Lucille Ball and the madman Zero Mostel).
The set is also beautifully presented in a deluxe box and comes with a 40-page collectible book featuring photos from the show’s archives, notes from Carol, and other great tidbits.
Don’t be confused when you go to the Time Life site and they’ve got this set all dressed up for the holidays. For a limited time, they’re adding in a bonus DVD, Carol’s Lost Christmas, containing three holiday episodes which are also new to home video. That set costs $199, and for $399 you can even get the VIP treatment where Carol Burnett signs and personalizes the set for you. Pretty impressive.
In short (or not, since there was a lot of ground to cover), Time Life has done an excellent job of putting together a very handsome and well-rounded set for anyone looking to add this wonderful show to their (or someone else’s) library. Apart from Carol herself jumping out of the box with her signature Tarzan yell, there’s not much else you could ask for.