Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show, Vol. 5

As promised, Kittens, here is my rundown of the latest volume of Guthy-Renker Carol Burnett Show DVDs.

The first episode of the DVD was also the first episode of the 10th season. How do I know it's the first episode, other than Carol mentioning it at the top of the show? Jim Nabors is the guest star. Loyal Carol Burnett fans know that she had Jim Nabors as her guest on every season premiere of her show. She considered him her good luck charm. They kick off the show with a duet of "The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady. Now imagine Carol as Henry Higgins and Gomer Pyle as Eliza Doolittle, and you get an idea of how this whole thing goes.

The first sketch following the opening credits stars all five regulars, plus Jim Nabors, in a parody of the Norman Lear soap opera satire, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Harvey, as Norman Blear, introduces the audience to his newest work: a soap opera for children, entitled Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. This seriously is one of the best sketches that was ever performed on The Carol Burnett Show. The writing, satire, and parodies in this sketch are simply brilliant--especially Carol's performance in the Louise Lasser role.

Now for many people, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is one of Norman Lear's most obscure--if not, his most obscure--work. I had to find some YouTube clips to fully understand the whole parody, but once you view them, it's easy to see the satire. For some samples, click here, here, and here. And here's a whole article on this show, courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman parody, Jim sings "Let Me Be There," accompanied by the Ernest Flatt Dancers. Mind you, when he sings, there's hardly any trace of that Gomer Pyle accent. His singing voice is really quite lovely. I had to rewind the DVD several times to listen to it; I couldn't get over how much I liked it.

Tim has a starring role in the next sketch, about a traveling businessman who hasn't slept in two nights. He decides to spend the night in a cheap, crappy motel. As he starts to fall asleep, a fly starts buzzing about the room, annoying the heck out of our friend.

Tim Conway. A fly in the room. Use your imagination.

Eunice, Mama, and Ed join the proceedings with a sketch involving a friendly little game of Monopoly. Eunice is about to triumph in the game when, as all family sketches go, things go terribly, horribly wrong for her.

A Family sketch. A game of Monopoly. Carol Burnett as Eunice. Again, use your imagination.

We wrap up the show with a mini-musical called "Shipwrecked in Tahiti," featuring the music of Nacio Herb Brown (I never heard of him till I got this DVD). It's cute, but not among Carol's best, IMHO.

The second episode of this DVD guest stars Carl Reiner and Ken Berry, two of The Carol Burnett Show's most popular semi-regulars. Ken stars in the first number, a cute little rendition of "Razzle Dazzle" set in an early 20th century barbershop. Why Ken Berry never became a huge Broadway star is a mystery to me; the man is incredibly talented, especially as a dancer.

The following sketch parodies all of those disaster movies of the 1970s. In "Disaster 75," we find Carol as a stewardess on Titanic Airlines flight 1313. Her passengers include Vicki Lawrence as a singing nun, Ken Berry as a nose transplant patient, and Carl Reiner as the air traffic controller who is also Carol's vengeful ex-lover. In the beginning of the DVD, Carol herself admitted that she would have cut this sketch out of the show if she could. She complained that it lasted forever. It did. I agree with Carol; this was not one of her best works. However, there is a clever little parody of her Q&A segments in this sketch, which pretty much saved the whole thing.

Finally, Harvey, as Alistair "Cookie," parodies Masterpiece Theatre. He announces that the BBC has decided to put Shakespeare's plays into musical comedy form, and that tonight is the first of its efforts.

Their first musical? Hold Me, Hamlet, featuring music by long-time Burnett collaborators Ken and Mitzie Welch.

Yes, at first glance it seems like it's bound to flop, but Harvey, as the King of Denmark, saves this one. Carl Reiner, as Hamlet's father, also saves it. Again, it's not the best mini-musical they have done, but you have to give them credit for trying.

Overall, there are some real gems in this volume, that are really worth seeing. There are some questionable sketches, like I have noted, but even Carol herself has admitted that she couldn't hit it out of the park every time. You take the good, you take the bad...

Oops, wrong show.

Ahhh, The Facts of I miss you, how I miss you!

Maybe that'll be the next show I'll get on DVD...

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