'The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special' DVD: Comedy Stars Come Out to Honor Mother of Television Sketch Comedy
One of the most awesome things about the Time Life September 25, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 CBS prime time special (from the original "Burnett" set) "The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Special" is that this Stephen Colbert hosted event fare exceeds fairly high expectations. Sofa spuds who are old enough to fully appreciate Burnett by watching the show during its 1967 - 78 run are old enough to recall the cheesy tribute and reunion specials of the era that are little more than clip shows and vanity appearances by has-beens. The Burnett special is notable for learning from history, rather than repeating it.
The following YouTube clip of the Colbert introduction on the special speaks for the aforementioned Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. It also helps Millennnials and Gen Yers a sense of the experience that this DVD and other "Burnett" sets convey.
The Unreal TV review of a Time Life 50th Anniversary compilation of "Burnett" episodes and a post on a Time Life release of lost "Burnett" Christmas episodes provides an additional sense of the literally timeless appeal of Burnettt and her co-stars. This gang consists of the uber-talented Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and incredibly good sport Lyle Waggoner. (Lawrence and Waggoner participate in the special.)
A special note regarding Lawrence is that the segment in which she and Burnett discuss the girl power of the show with female comedians such as Amy Poehler and Tracee Ellis Ross includes discussing how a teen Lawrence comes to join the cast. This topic touches on Lawrence going from playing the younger sister of Burnett to portraying her mother. The reviewed Time Life CS DVD of the hilarious '80scom "Mama's Family" shows how that redneck matriarch endures in pop culture.
The lovefest that Carol has with the boys includes arguably the two most endearing moments in the special. Jim Carrey discussing being a 10 year-old applying to join the "Burnett" cast in 1972 virtually literally sets the stage for re-enacting his receipt of a response from Burnett. This leads to a couple of wonderful close encounters.
The interaction between Burnett and Martin Short in this segment arguably best showcases the current sharpness of the former. Short immediately launches into the celebrity insulting persona of his talk show host Jiminy Glick character. Although momentarily phased, Burnett plays along and lets Short run amok.
The poise and sharpness of Burnett evokes loving thoughts of a still gorgeous 80-something Barbara Feldon at a Paley Center panel for her '60scom "Get Smart" several years ago. The boys look their ages and have minor age-related cognitive issues, but Feldon is fully alert and makes a hilarious quip.
Another highlight has the woman of the hour and former "Burnett" show guest Steve Martin sitting in a set that looks like a darkened movie theater. The chemistry between them is so strong that one yearns for a film co-starring them. Additionally, Martin puts the wry version of his humor on full display.
We do get clips, but they do not dominate the special; they do demonstrate the graciousness of Burnett by focusing as much (if not more) on her cast as on her. The finale to the special is equally apt for the series.
The best way to wrap up this discussion of the special is to note Burnett channeling fellow '70s-era CBS star Polly Holliday of the sitcom "Alice." Holliday was know for responding to fan requests to state her catchphrase "kiss mah grits" by saying that the admirer has heard her utter that phrase many times and that Holliday wants to hear the other person do it. The Burnett twist is having her guests imitate her Tarzan yell.
The truly special features includes a booklet with a gracious note by Burnett and a printed selection of the adorations by modern-day comedians. The best filmed extra shows Burnett engaging the studio audience during commercial breaks in the special. We also get unaired video love letters from the aforementioned admirers.