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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Best of the Carol Burnett Show

September 24th, 2012

The Best of the Carol Burnett Show - Buy from Time Life

The Carol Burnett Show started in 1967 and ran for eleven seasons and 278 episodes. Recently, Time Life released four different Best Of... DVDs, ranging from a one-disc collection of fan favorite skits, to a massive a 22-disc Megaset, currently available only on Buy from Time Life. It is a little pricey, but is it worth the money?

The Show

While there are 278 episodes in total, there are only 50 episodes collected in this massive box set. Perhaps they thought a DVD box set with 70+ discs would be too much to deal with, and quite frankly, I can't really argue with that; although I do hope there's another full-series Megaset on the way.

Like with most sketch-comedy shows, I'm not going to review the episodes for three reasons. Firstly, because of the nature of sketch-comedy, with many sketches, just describing them can spoiler them. Secondly, like with the Benny Hill Megaset I previously reviewed, I don't need to watch every episode to know this box set is worth owning. I was a huge fan of this show growing up and even though I haven't seen the show in years (Decades?) I still recognized many of the sketches shortly after they begun. The final reason I won't be reviewing the individual episodes is because this 22-disc box set is more than two-and-a-half days long (assuming I didn't have a math fail adding up the times on the back of the sets). That's a full-time job for a week and a half.

A brief overview of the show... It stars Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and for much of the time, Tim Conway. (He was only part of the main cast for the last few seasons of the show, replacing Lyle Waggoner, but for the first seven, he was a regular guest star with two dozen guest appearances before he became a full-time member of the cast.) The show lasted for more than a decade, and for good reason. The creative forces behind the show had an incredible talent for generating laughs through parodies of famous movies and TV shows, creating timeless recurring characters, and just simple one-shot silliness. One of these recurring bits, Mama's Family, was spun-off into its own show, which lasted six seasons. Most shows don't last six seasons, and this show was good enough to create a spin-off that did just that.

My only complaint is that it isn't a full-series Megaset. That said, Carol Burnett picked out these episodes herself and I haven't found one that didn't deserve to be here.

The Extras

The box set is divided into three smaller DVDs and two bonus discs. (Don't ask me to explain the numbering system, as This Time Together and One More Time go back and forth.) The extras from the individual DVDs are...

  • Carol's Favorites
    • Disc One:
      Let's Bump Up the Lights is a 36-minute long reunion with the four remaining stars of the show. (Sadly, Harvey Korman died before the DVD was produced.) The four of them clearly have a lot of fond memories to share. I Wanna Push That Button is a 19-minute featurette on the history of the show starting with Carol Burnett's early success that allowed her to get her own show, casting, etc. There's also one bonus sketch, The Dentist, and if you've are a fan of the show, you probably already know the sketch.
    • Disc Three:
      There is an episode of The Gary Moore show that features a guest appearance by Carol Burnett. It is 50 years old and the video quality is weak, but there's historical significance here. Ahhhh, Mrs. Whiggins? is a 14-minute featurette on one of the most enduring recurring characters from the show, Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Whiggins. There is also a 16-minute featurette with Carol Burnett.
    • Disc Six:
      Carol Burnett: Leading Lady is a 12-minute featurette on how Carol Burnett was a pioneer as the first female host of a comedy variety show. There is a 46-minute interview with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway shot in 2004. They still had great chemistry together. There are also interviews with Betty White and Carl Reiner.
  • This Time Together
    • Disc Eight:
      This Time Together is a 31-minute reunion with the four cast members. Listening to them talk about the elephant story makes that skit even funnier. There are interviews with Tim Conway and Steve Lawrence.
    • Disc Fourteen:
      Gags and Gowns is a 20-minute featurette on Bob Mackie, who designed the costumes for the entire show and did glamor and goofy perfectly. Side Effects May Include is a 10-minute featurette on the commercial parodies. There are more interviews, this time with Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence.
  • One More Time
    • Disc Nine:
      One More Time is a 33-minute cast reunion, which finishes out the three-part main extra. There are two more interviews with Betty White and Joel Grey.
    • Disc Eighteen
      Focus on "The Family" is a 16-minute set about Mama's Family, which is one of the most famous recurring bits from the entire show. From Soaps to 'Nuts is a 20-minute featurette on the TV parodies. The two interviews here are with Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence.
There are also four discs of bonus features that are only available on the 22-disc Megaset. They have a combined 13 hours of extras. Hours.
  • Disc Nineteen
    There's the last appearance by Carol Burnett on The Gary Moore Show. There are bonus sketches, one featuring Jerry Lewis and the other featuring Lucille Ball. There's a 21-minute featurette on the Q&A Carol Burnett did at the start of each show. There's also the second part of the interview with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway from 2004. Finally, there's seven more interviews with various entertainers that either appeared on the show, or were influenced by the show.
  • Disc Twenty
    Guest Book from Season 10 is a seven-minute clip show of some of the more prominent guest stars from the penultimate season. There is a bonus sketch with Bing Crosby featuring a cameo by Bob Hope. There is a 20-minute featurette on the writers. Starlet, Mildred, and More is a 22-minute featurette on the movie parodies. There is a 33-minute interview with Harvey Korman from 2004. There are eight more interviews with various entertainers that either appeared on the show, or were influenced by the show.
  • Disc Twenty-One
    There's yet another bonus episode from The Gary Moore Show. There is the second part of the Harvey Korman interview from 2004, this one is 37 minutes long. There is a bonus sketch, Lovely Story, which is mentioned in one of the previous featurettes. Next Stop, Broadway is a 19-minute featurette on the mini-musicals from the show. There are eight more interviews with various entertainers that either appeared on the show, or were influenced by the show. (Yes, I'm cutting and pasting this part.)
  • Disc Twenty-Two
    There is a bonus sketch, Sunnyset Boulevard. Next up is Breaking Up Is Hard Not to Do a 21-minute featurette on all the time the cast cracked up during sketches. I could watch this featurette over-and-over again. We Love You Harvey is a 22-minute featurette on the ensemble cast. Finally, there are seven more interviews with various entertainers that either appeared on the show, or were influenced by the show.
I should point out that some of the extras are repeated. There are clips from some of the interviews with the stars, which are also in the featurettes and some of the featurettes use the same interview clips. However, this is a minor complaint given the total amount of extras.

The Megaset also comes with a booklet with essays and images, and the whole thing comes in a really cool box.

The Verdict

In total, there are about 40 hours of episodes and 20 hours of extras on the The Best of the Carol Burnett Show Megaset, including 13 hours that are not available on any of the smaller sets. Granted, the Megaset costs $200, which is a lot. I think it is worth the price-tag, but some might want to wait till it is no longer a Time Life exclusive, but that could take a year or so. Or you could send subtle hints to loves ones that you want it for Christmas. 'Buy me this or you are out of the will.' has worked for me in the past.

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