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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers
The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers
Paramount // Unrated // October 8, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by DVD Savant | posted October 26, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers was a big ratings winner on CBS last fall, when it debuted soon after the 9.11 debacle. The promise of a nostalgia-driven feel-good variety and comedy show was just the ticket for a public demoralized by incessant bad news. In essence, America ran for emotional cover. It spawned a half-dozen quick follow-ups and copycats.

Savant wasn't a constant viewer, but loved the talented and funny Burnett ever since seeing her on the old George Gobel (who?) show back in 1960 or so. Hammy clowns Harvey Korman and Tim Conway could easily get to be too much, but the average Carol Burnett Show skit was uproariously funny, especially their dead-on movie takeoffs, which were better than film critcism for getting at the basic appeal and/or silliness of the films they skewered.

Unfortunately, Show Stoppers isn't a collection of old skits, as I had hoped. It's instead a very phony reunion get-togther, with the four principals hamming it up for the audience. Korman and Conway are insufferable, like a pair of kids who keep up a cute act long after they've worn out their welcome. Burnett's warmth and sincerity is taxed by the format, and the drippy 'back together' song she's given to open the show. She dutifully performs one of her Tarzan yells for a nabob in the studio audience who presumably got dressed up and drove to the studio just for that . We can't imagine Carol walking offstage afterwards with a smile on her face, but I bet she did just to be agreeable.

Essentially, the group yakks up a clip they're about to show, assuring us that it's the funniest thing ever to happen, and then we see it. Only they aren't whole skits, but fragments and outtakes where things go wrong (or the self-satisfied performers allow them to, to amuse themselves) and we're supposed to die laughing. The canned laughter from the old show mixes with the canned laughter from the 'live audience'.

Outtakes of this nature got stale back in the 60s when we realized guests like Don Adams and Don Rickles were manufacturing them, to have something to show when they appeared on the Tonight Show. And Korman and Conway are so clued into the 'goofy cut-up' as an attention-getting device, that's really all they're trying to do. In most of these clips, the gag isn't all that witty, with Burnett's amiable reaction, or Vicki Lawrence's honest attempt to keep a straight face, the best thing happening. In one clip, Burnett flashes to a Peeping Tom played by Tim Conway. When she turns, she's wearing a full-chest plastic set of fake breasts, obviously never seen on the original show, which of course make Conway break up even more. I can imagine Burnett's squeaky-clean mid-American fan base might have their eyebrows raised by that one.

For color and sharpness, the 42-minute show looks fine, even the old video clips. But it sure tells me why I don't watch much television any more.

Review Date 10.26.02

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