Friday, November 04, 2005

Soda, Snacks & Carol

Figuring out what to do with my approaching Saturday night reminded me of what constituted the perfect Saturday night of my childhood: a whole can of Pepsi, a bag of Cheese Curls, and The Carol Burnett Show.

Every Saturday night, 10:00, CBS – I was there. I am not sure when I caught on, but Carol was basically my comic hero and one of my first celebrity crushes (others were Sandy Duncan and Rita Moreno). The show ran from 1967-1978, an amazing 11-year run for a medium where the average run in the 70's was half that time (Laugh In ended after 5 years, Sonny and Cher ended after just 3 years, Cher’s own variety show lasted just 2 years, and Donny & Marie lasted 4 years).

Burnett created such memorable characters as loud, brash Eunice, dim, sexy Mrs. Wiggins, and a high-pitched parody of Queen Elizabeth II. The characters were timeless, quirky and uniquely funny; some sad, some pathetic, all hysterical.
Other famous characters of Burnett’s included her signature Cleaning Lady, and movie parodies such as southern belle Starlet O’Hara, diner owner Mildred Fierce, and sagging silent film star Norma Desmond.

Until Saturday Night Live debuted, The Carol Burnett Show was virtually the only topical satire on television – tame as it was. Interestingly, a spin-off of The Carol Burnett Show, was Mama’s Family, based on the ongoing skit on Burnett’s show. Mama’s Family only lasted a few seasons and featured Betty White as Eunice’s sister, Ellen, and Rue McClanahan as Mama’s sister. When the series was canceled, the creators replaced it with The Golden Girls. So Carol Burnett is indirectly responsible for another personal favourite, The Golden Girls.

After the show ended, Burnett brought her company back to television several times over the years. In 2004, Burnett and her troupe gathered one last time for a retrospective called Let’s Bump Up The Lights, the most-watched variety special in television history.

Every so often, flipping through cable’s 1,000+ channels, I will catch The Carol Burnett Show in syndication. And even though I know the skits verbatim, I will sit and watch and laugh out loud again, just like I do with The Golden Girls. Timeless.

Thanks, Carol. I’m so glad we had that time together.