Yet again, Time Life has brought onto DVDs a collection of not-too-old-time TV shows, this one titled “The Carol Burnett Show, The Lost Episodes.” (Perhaps “The Up to Now Lost Episodes” would be more accurate?) The contradiction notwithstanding, this 6-disc set is a delight.
There are 16 episodes, the earliest of which was seen on 9/11/67, the latest on 3/1/72. The usual gang is on all of them: Carol herself, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and Vicki Lawrence. Among the many guest stars are Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Phyllis Diller, Jim Nabors, Bob Newhart, Bernadette Peters, Don Rickles, Julie Andrews, and Flip Wilson.
The funniest sketch (to me) has a sex-mad Carol as Katherine Hepburn supposedly warding off the Humphrey Bogart of Steve Lawrence in a fabulous spoof of “The African Queen.” And I just loved the whole gang’s takeoff of the original “Mission Impossible,” with Carol doing a devastating satire of Barbara Bain. And how audiences loved those moments when Korman tries unsuccessfully to keep a straight face while Don Rickles and Tim Conway are in high gear.
The most frantic routine has Don Rickles as a shoe salesman driven to thoughts of homicide by his female customers.( He tells one of them that she doesn’t need a shoe salesman but a blacksmith.) By the end of the sketch, he looks ready for Dr. House’s team to save him. Conway’s style is quite the opposite and far more subtle. But both get laughs, especially from Korman!
There are some routines that show up on several of the shows. There are “The Old Folks” with Burnett and Korman, “Carol and Sis” with Burnett and Lawrence, “As the Stomach Turns” with Burnett, Korman, Lawrence, and whoever the guest star might be. There is the opening routine in which Burnett answers questions from the audience (with what degree of preparation I cannot tell), Burnett as the Charwoman, and other routines which the audience expects and which the writers never fail to provide.
While some of the comic sketches might fall a bit flat, the dance routines are of the highest caliber. Among the vocalists doing guest star duty are Pat Boone, Vikki Carr, Jack Jones, Dolly Parton, and Chita Rivera.
As with the other Burnett anthology, there are over 5 hours of bonus materials: interviews, famous sketches, outtakes, and even a backstage tour. An informative booklet gives all the tracking and lots of extra information and pictures. A great collection of one of the best variety shows from the past!