|The Carol Burnett Show is a variety / sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway. It originally ran on CBS from September 11, 1967, to March 29, 1978, for 278 episodes and originated from CBS Television City's Studio 33 (known today as the Bob Barker Studio). The series won 25 prime time Emmy Awards, was ranked #16 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002 and in 2007 was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."
The popular variety show made the stars household names with such sketches as "As the Stomach Turns", (a parody of As the World Turns) and "Went with the Wind" (a parody of Gone with the Wind, featuring a scene with Burnett as Starlett O'Hara in the dress made from a window curtain, complete with the curtain rod), "Carol & Sis", "Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins", "The Family" (which would later spin off into a show called Mama's Family), "Nora Desmond" (Burnett's send-up of Gloria Swanson's character Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard), and "Stella Toddler." A frequent repeated segment was "Kitchen Commercials", in which cast members parodied TV commercials that drove a woman (Burnett) crazy. The show had frequent, high recognition guest stars. The long-running show was frequently nominated for Emmys, and won three times.
A unique feature of the show consisted of a question-and-answer segment involving Carol Burnett with the audience, in CBS Studio 33. Burnett did this for about 3 minutes at the start of most shows. Burnett would ask for the lights above the audience to be turned up ("Let's bump up the lights...") and then randomly pick audience members who raised their hands to ask her questions. This informality was possible due to the design of Studio 33; cameras were to the left and right of the stage with one below in the pit and one suspended, so the actors were very close to the audience.
Sample question from young woman in audience:
"Have you ever taken acting lessons?"
Carol: "Yes, I have."
Audience member: "Do you think it did any good?"
Skit with Mel Torme, 1969.
The show was rehearsed for three to four hours each day until the Friday tapings, when two recordings were made. As there were only two recordings, if an actor flubbed a line in both takes, the error appeared in the broadcast, giving the show some immediacy. Pick-ups were exceptions, and usually only used for musical numbers.
A true variety show in its simplest of forms, The Carol Burnett Show struck a harmonious chord with viewers through parodies of films ("Went With the Wind"), television ("As the Stomach Turns") and TV commercials. Burnett and team struck gold with the original skit "The Family" which eventually spun off into a television show, "Mama's Family", starring Lawrence.
The show also became known for its closing theme song, written by Burnett's husband, with the following lyrics:
I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, "So long."
At the close of each episode Burnett would tug her ear. This silent message was meant for her grandmother who raised her, and meant she was thinking of her at that moment. After her grandmother's death, Burnett continued the tradition.