Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013

Christmas with Carol Burnett

By David Luhrssen
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A versatile entertainer of the old school, Carol Burnett was a talented singer as well as a rubber-faced comedian who could act the fool and hit notes of pathos. Her long-running TV variety show (1967-1978) gave her wide scope. Episodes originally aired during the holidays have been collected on a DVD, "The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol."

The comedy sketches often depicted the funny yet difficult side of a holiday season hectic and drained of joy. In one episode, guest star Alan Alda plays the big-city artist who comes home for Christmas to the narrow-minded, redneck family he escaped years before. They assume he's gay and communication is nil. In that same episode, Alda and Burnett play a pair of harassed department store workers, counting the minutes till the shopping ends. When the customer are finally gone, they break into a sad song of complaint.


Some segments will strike today's viewers as odd. Helen Reddy dressed up as a rag doll, singing in a toyshop? But the best moments crackle with imagination and spontaneity. Each episode was introduced by Burnett conducting a Q&A with her studio audience. "My New Year's resolution?" she replies. "I don't have one—I'm perfect!"


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