LOS ANGELES – Carol Burnett is so glad we had this time together, as she sang in her signature song. Now, she's added a lot more time, and a lot more songs, to be glad about.
Since its original run from 1967 to 1978, most viewers have only seen heavily chopped versions of “The Carol Burnett Show," and many fans had no idea that singing and dancing were an essential part of a series that was actually more classic variety show than modern comedy sketch show.
“What we were doing in essence was kind of like a Broadway musical revue every week, kind of like vaudeville, with sketches and then musical numbers. And of course in television the “v” of vaudeville became the “v” of variety show," Burnett told The Associated Press this week. “The problem was, when we went into syndication all those years ago, they cut it down to a half hour, and all the music was cut out.”
But now, 65 episodes drawn from the show’s 11 seasons on CBS, which brought it 25 Emmy Awards, have been revived and expanded, most to their original hour length under the title “The Best of The Carol Burnett Show,” and can be seen streaming for the first time on services including Tubi and The Roku Channel.
Along with its guest star, each show typically had a musical guest, who would perform in a simple setting early in the show then sing and dance in a big, costumed, Broadway-style finale at the end alongside Burnett and often singing co-stars Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner.
It was on Broadway that Burnett, now 87, had her breakout role at age 26 in 1959, singing in the musical fairytale spoof, “Once Upon a Mattress.”
“My first love was musical comedy," Burnett said. “I wanted to be on Broadway, so I was always singing loud, like Ethel Merman. Then what was great fun was that when I got my own show, I got to do some of that.”
Merman would be among the show's musical guests, as would Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Helen Reddy and the Jackson 5.