1 9 6 7 – 1 9 7 9 (USA)
244 x 60 minute episodes
This long-running and popular sketch show from CBS starred Carol Burnett with support from Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner.
For an hour each week, Carol and her team spoofed everything from movies to commercials and generally cracked each other up before the live studio audience that came for the taping of what became one of the best-loved American variety shows of all time.
Burnett was wise enough to surround herself with a talented supporting team; Harvey Korman proved to be an excellent comic counterpoint, newcomer Vicki Lawrence proved her ability to keep up with the veteran performer, while handsome Lyle Waggoner was the perfect straight man in dozens of skits and sketches.
Burnett’s friend, actor and singer Jim Nabors (who was starring in the hit sitcom Gomer Pyle, USMC at the time) was the show’s first guest host. Burnett considered him a ‘lucky charm’ and Nabors appeared on each season opener for the next decade.
Waggoner left the Show in 1974 to pursue new roles and funnyman Tim Conway, a frequent guest, became part of the regular cast in 1975.
Harvey Korman was lured away from the show in 1977 with an offer of his own series on rival ABC. Needing a strong male comic anchor who could also do straight roles, Burnett turned to sitcom and variety veteran Dick Van Dyke. The hoped-for chemistry between the two comic greats was lacking and three months after he arrived, Van Dyke abruptly left.
Besides the spoofs of TV shows, movies and commercials, the best-known segments of the show included Carol’s short question and answer session with the studio audience, and the continuing skits featuring Burnett as secretary Mrs Wiggins.
Of all the parodies performed on The Carol Burnett Show, probably the best-remembered and funniest was an inspired takeoff of the classic film Gone With The Wind, called Went With The Breeze.
Airing on 13 November 1976, Burnett played the spoiled Southerner Starlet O’Hara. She tries to tempt the handsome Rat Butler (Korman) by quickly pulling down some curtains from her mansion to make an elegant dress – curtain rod and all (pictured above).
23 years after it aired, the skit was named the second-funniest television moment of all time by TV Guide magazine.
The two-hour finale of The Carol Burnett Show on 29 March 1978 featured past highlights and new skits before Carol Burnett sang I’m so glad we had this time together and tugged her earlobe for the final time . . .
The Carol Burnett Show was also responsible for launching the sitcom Mama’s Family in 1983.
The show grew out of a popular recurring sketch on The Carol Burnett Show originally called “The Family”.
The sketch was written to star Carol Burnett as Mama and Vicki Lawrence as Eunice, but Burnett switched the roles around shortly before production.
As Lawrence put it later, “Carol was the big star, and we just listened to her.”
The sketch was a hit on the show, and soon Lawrence was approached about turning the skit into a comedy series.
Surprisingly, she turned it down at first, stating that she didn’t want to leave The Carol Burnett Show.
After Lawrence’s made-for-TV movie, Eunice, was a ratings success in 1981, Vicki finally agreed to take the plunge.
Dick Van Dyke