The TV legend reflects on her eponymous variety series.
When the Carol Burnett Show premiered on CBS in 1967, it was the heyday for variety shows, which mixed sketch comedy with musical performances and were a staple on network TV. Though several shows from that era enjoyed high ratings for a few seasons, such as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and the Glen Campbell Show, Burnett’s (This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, 2010, etc.) series remained an audience favorite for an unprecedented 11 years, winning multiple Emmy awards along the way and continuing in syndication ever since. In this light, behind-the-scenes memoir, the author pays tribute to the many talented individuals responsible for the show’s enduring success, including the writers, musicians, designers, technicians, and, perhaps most significantly, her team of weekly performers and big-name celebrity guest stars. She additionally shares some of the hilarious impromptu moments on the set and sheds light on the many memorable sketches, including the movie parodies that have become classic TV. In brief, occasionally disjointed chapters, Burnett provides fascinating glimpses of the vigorous demands involved with producing her show, eventually summarizing why such shows are regretfully no longer produced on the same scale. “Sadly, variety shows like ours have gone the way of the dodo bird,” she writes. “A variety show today can never duplicate what we did. Why? Money. The cost of clearing the songs and music would sink the Titanic. Sixty to seventy costumes a week? No way. A twenty-eight piece orchestra? Twelve dancers? A rep company of five? Six to eight sketches a show? Major guest stars? Block the entire show and rehearse with the orchestra in one day? The following day tape the whole shebang in two hours? Dream on.”
An entertaining if somewhat overly anecdotal look back at a beloved weekly variety series.