DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show (The Lost Episodes – Collector’s Edition)

The Carol Burnett Show represented the future of CBS when it debuted in 1967. The variety show was in full color after the network clung to black and white way past its time. Carol’s comedy was a break from the Westerns and rural comedies that were a major part of the network’s primetime lineup. Carol was able to keep her audience during 11 seasons where the pop culture landscape shifted so many times. When her variety show went off the air in 1978, the episodes edited into Carol Burnett and Friends for syndication. The focus was mostly on the sketches and not the musical numbers. Those moments weren’t the only things not in the package. Turns out that the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show were missing from the best of selections. Why? Carol claims that Tim Conway hid the tapes at his house as part of an elaborate prank. No matter what the reason, it’s a delight to get to see the early years when Carol established herself and her troupe as a primetime dynamo as part of The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – Collector’s Edition.

The first episode (#003) has Carol setting the structure for her show that would last the entire run. Instead of a dazzling opening theme song or show stopping musical number, Carol walks onto her stage and asks if the studio audience has any questions for her or about the show. It’s a startling moment since Carol recognizes the importance of the audience in her show. They aren’t a faceless laugh track to her. She’s connecting. She even brings out her hunky announcer Lyle Waggoner. He was fresh off losing the role of Batman to Adam West. The sketches are not the short zingers. They average around 10 minutes yet don’t drag. The performers will crack each other up and those moments are kept in the show. There’s a live feeling to the performances. There’s plenty of musical moments with Carol and Jim Nabors sharing the microphone on this premiere. There’s also Vicki Lawrence playing Carol’s daughter in the “Carol and Sis” sketch. The show comes to an end with Carol getting her guest stars to sign her autograph book. Once again this simple gesture connects her with the audience. No wonder the show was able to last over a decade.

This collection contains 16 episodes from the first five seasons. Carol really comes alive when Lucille Ball joins her on stage. These two crazy redheads have amazing chemistry even in the blandish of sketches. Carol and Lucy are only second to Lucy and Ethel. If you’re a fan of I Love Lucy, this is essential viewing.

Tim Conway wouldn’t become a regular cast member until the final years when he replaced Lyle Waggoner (who left for Wonder Woman). But he became an amazing guest star during these early years. Other guest in this collection include a very young Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, Bing Crosby, Paul Lynde, Bob Newhart, Phyllis Diller, Cass Elliot and Leonard Nimoy. She certainly knew how to give her guest stars a chance to shine on her stage.

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – Collector’s Edition reminds us that this show started off on the right foot. Carol, cast and crew didn’t have to reinvent themselves every year. The comedy still works since it’s not based off current events. You don’t need to check a history book to get the jokes. The musical moments still kick with great routines and over the top colorful costumes. They made the color bounce off the tv screen. Who cares why they were lost, it’s just fantastic that they’re now found.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video. The master tapes look fine. There’s a few color glitches, but nothing too distracting. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Things sound good for a production shot on a stage in front of an audience. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Fabulous Firsts (29:19) focuses on when Carol and cast broke in new characters, guest stars and her Tarzan yell.

On the Spot (20:04) addresses why Carol opened the show by taking questions from the audience. Bob Mackie talks about having to come up with gown for just the segment.

Uncut Q & A (9:54) from the first episode. This is just the camera on Carol.

A Backstage Tour: Carol and Company Return to Studio 33 (19:41) has Carol, Lyle, Tim and Vicki return to the place they called home for 11 seasons. They performed the show twice in a day. Sometimes they’d use the dress rehearsal footage if the audience cracked up the breakdowns.

The Dentist (9:36) has Tim Conway getting to drill on his first patient (Harvey Korman).

Morton of the Movies (14:54) has Carol discover that her romantic date (Alan Alda) ends with the same lines being used in a movie being aired on TV.

Outtakes (3:26) includes Carol’s saggy striptease, Paul Lynde losing it and a tongue twisted Mountie.

Opening Number from Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center (8:41) starts with Carol explaining how she did her own hair highlighting before the special. The two have great chemistry as they break into song after a fine catty moment.

Interviews with Carol Burnett, Don Rickles, Julie Andrews, Bill Hader, Gloria Loring, Queen Latifah, Jack Jones, Carol Channing, Vikki Carr, Alan Alda, Burt Reynolds, Leslie Ann Warren and Jim Nabors. Those that appeared on the show talk about its impact on their career.

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – Collector’s Edition opens up the vault to the early years when Carol became America’s best friend. This is a sample of the 45 episodes found on The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – The Ultimate Edition.

Time Life presents The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – Collector’s Edition. Starring: Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner. Boxset Contents: 16 Episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: September 8, 2015.