Saturday, November 22, 2008

DVD Review: The Carol Burnett Show, Vol. 6

Today was a good day to fold laundry and watch The Carol Burnett Show.

OK, maybe it was a good day to watch The Carol Burnett Show. Folding laundry's easier when you have a distraction.

Volume 6 opens with interesting commentary from Carol herself. The big revelation here is that she admits to disliking her Charwoman character. What?!?! Dislike the character who became her signature, her logo? She said that she didn't like doing the Charwoman because "all she did was dust a little, then sit on a bucket and sing the blues." Well, obviously Joe Hamilton, her husband and executive producer, saw a lot more in that character, and the audience must have, too, for the Charwoman has become a classic.

Revelations aside, this is another quality show from Carol and her crew. We kick things off with a Tudball and Wiggins sketch about fire safety. The insurance man (Harvey) pays a visit to determine whether the right fire safety protocols are in place; if they're not, then Tudball's rates will go up. Of course, teaching Mrs. Wiggins about fire safety is a job in itself. Watch for Harvey trying to get Tim to crack up; it was a noble attempt to get Tim to finally lose his cool.

We follow with a superb tap dance number featuring Ken Berry, a Carol Burnett Show semi-regular (so far he's guested on three of the DVDs I've received so far), and the Ernest Flatt dancers, tapping to the beat of the Gershwin classic "I've Got Rhythm." I still don't understand why this man never got a chance to headline a Broadway show. He did go on tour in the shows George M! and The Music Man, though, so people across America were able to see his many talents.

A Harvey-Tim sketch comes next, with the dynamic duo "Lost in the Sahara." They play two soldiers--two very thirsty, dehydrated soldiers, who encounter an oasis. Tim insists the bar, presided over by Vicki Lawrence, is not an apparition. Is it, or isn't it? Harvey insists that it's a desert mirage...but how else do you explain how Tim suddenly gets drenched with two Tom Collinses?

We finish with a two-part finale: a takeoff on the Mickey-Judy movies called "Babes in Barns." Ken Berry stars as "Spunky," and Carol stars as "Dodie." She sings in the style of Judy Garland, complete with deep, shaky alto bravado. This is one of her best impressions. This finale also features one of the Ernest Flatt Dancers, Toni Kaye, who looks a lot like Chita Rivera. I did an internet search on her as I prepared this post. Not only did she dance on The Carol Burnett Show, she danced in the movie Funny Lady and helped choreograph Pennies From Heaven. She also helped choreograph Sugar Babies and starred in one of its national tours. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1995.

Anyhoo, Ms. Kaye stars as Dee Dee, whose sole talent is that "she can do the splits!" She gets cast in a show created for Spunky's parents can pay off their mortgage. She gets cast not just because she can do the splits, but because her wealthy father has lots of money, enough to back the show. A love triangle forms among Spunky, Dodie, and Dee Dee. In the true tradition of MGM musicals, can you guess which gal prevails and wins the heart of Spunky in the end? This is a very cute parody with some great music and dancing, one of the best finales I've seen so far.

The second episode in this volume features a very young Bernadette Peters as its guest star. I'm guessing that Bernadette is in her mid-twenties here. She co-stars with Carol in an installment of "As the Stomach Turns," The Carol Burnett Show's parody of daytime soaps. This sketch is actually a parody of a parody; in it, Bernadette stars as Carol's niece, Raven, who becomes demonically possessed. Yep, you've got it: it's a parody of The Exorcist, which was the movie at the time this episode was written and filmed. Tim Conway, who was not a regular at the time, guests as a exterminator-turned-exorcist. This sketch takes place in his pre-Tudball days; he uses the Tudball accent in his portrayal of the exterminator-turned-exorcist. It's an especially funny sketch because of its very subtle cultural references scattered throughout. For example, Raven, who is from Washington, D.C., brings her aunt souvenirs from her home city--among them, two reel-to-reel tapes, which her aunt "places with her comedy albums." (For those who didn't get the pop-culture reference, this show originally aired on February 16, 1974, near the height of the Watergate scandal. And for those of you who are too young to remember Watergate or have not studied it in school, find out more about it here.)

Bernadette then sings a touching rendition of "Blame it On My Youth," which is appropriate, given that, like I said earlier, she's in her mid-twenties here. In this performance, she shows the first signs of her sultriness and vulnerability, two qualities which helped make her one of our top theatre divas. (And she, like Patti LuPone, is a fellow Italian-American gal, and we Italian-American gals gotta stick together!)

The next sketch features Carol and Vicki as two old high school friends catching up on their years apart. Carol portrays a deliciously evil, spiteful woman who is jealous of her friend's life. It's a lot of fun to watch.

The sketch that follows is a very weak parody of war films. Even though this particular episode won an Emmy for writing, this sketch was not of the quality we have come to expect from The Carol Burnett Show. Harvey and Tim play Japanese submarine sailors who plan to sink Cleveland. They try--"try" being the operative word here--to speak Japanese. I just plain didn't like this one.

A brief sketch comes before the finale, one featuring Harvey as an Italian barber, whose client is targeted by a clumsy hitman, Tim. I'll go no further; this wasn't particularly memorable.

This episode redeems itself in the finale, a salute to the music of Harry Warren. Carol plays a wallflower pianist who is asked by her crush, Harvey, to play at his frat party, where he plans to pin his crush, Bernadette. There is an incredible tap dancing segment here with Bernadette and the Ernest Flatt Dancers, the highlight of this sketch.

Carol always said she never felt comfortable playing the beauty, that she felt more at home playing either average-looking or homely characters. What is great about these characters, however, is that they always get their man in the end. Ahhh, what a world! Men looking for brains over beauty! I love it!

Volume 7 also arrived in the mail with this one. I should watch it tonight, given the amount of laundry I have to fold.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! I'm looking at this collection (or more likely part of it) as a gift for my father. I would greatly appreciate your opinion on which volumes you think are the best.

Thank you

Kitten said...

Hi! Thanks for your comment! I hope I can answer your question OK: I'm subcribing to the Guthy-Renker series. So far there are seven volumes in this one. When Columbia House had the series, there were 32 volumes. I really don't know much about the Columbia House series, but there really hasn't been a bad episode in the Guthy-Renker series. Go to if you want to order the subscription. I'm sure your father will love it!