Actor: Carol Burnett

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by feastoffools.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by feastoffools.

How’s this for a Saturday night TV lineup? On CBS in 1973 you’d see: All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. That roster deserves its own wing at the Museum of Broadcasting. The first two were controversial, the next two were heartwarming, and Carol Burnett was just flat-out funny.

Her show ran for 11 seasons, from 1967-1978. It was a variety show with musical guests, but that element of the show is virtually forgotten. What we remember is the comedy from Carol’s wonderfully talented ensemble cast: Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. Carol and Tim were hilarious in the continuing “Mrs. Wiggins” sketches, Carol and Vicki shone in “The Family” skits (later spun off as Mama’s Family).

Tim Conway would improvise, and because the show was taped before a live audience, the cast would have to adapt. The result was often chaos, with Korman and Conway breaking up on the air. The most memorable sketch, indeed one of the most remarkable in television history, was the send-up of Gone With the Wind called “Went With the Wind.”

Part 2 is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nt0yi4wbro

Carol had done TV before getting her own show, of course, and she did more TV and films after. But we’ll always remember her for the amazing talent she assembled (on both sides of the camera), and for being wise enough to give them the freedom that ended up making her look good.

The show won 22 Emmy Awards during its run. Best I can tell, it’s not on anywhere now in syndication. When you look at the morass of television today, isn’t there anyplace on 150 channels to replay one of the funniest shows of all time?

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