Chris Hicks: Carol Burnett’s classic TV variety show comes to DVD

Published: Saturday, Sept. 29 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Carol Burnett’s classic variety series leads these TV shows arriving on DVD this week.

“The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Favorites” (TimeLife, 1972-78, six discs, $59.95 retail but available for $39, 16 episodes, excerpt from 1962 “Garry Moore Show,” original version of “The Dentist” skit with Conway and Korman, featurettes; 12-page booklet). Burnett was a groundbreaker for women in television, as attested to in this set’s bonus interviews, but the real selling point here is, as they say, “the funny.” And there’s a lot of the funny.

These 16 uncut episodes of her variety series demonstrate Burnett’s wide-ranging talent, as well as the talent of those with whom she surrounded herself, especially Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. Guest stars include Betty White, Steve Martin, Maggie Smith, Carl Reiner, Vincent Price, Shirley MacLaine, Joanne Woodward, Rock Hudson, Pearl Bailey, Joan Rivers, etc.

Among the skits in these shows are some of Burnett’s most famous and best loved, including the “Gone With the Wind” sendup, a spoof of “Airport ’75” (with a joke about Brigham Young), and recurring characters Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins (played by Conway and Burnett), “The Family” (led by Lawrence as Mama), “The Oldest Man” (Conway), etc. One of the bonus features is the first time Conway and Korman performed their dentist routine, and another is a truncated black-and-white “Garry Moore Show” with Burnett doing a “Supergirl” skit and, for the first time, her Tarzan yell.

The comedy here is clever though some references are definitely dated. But baby boomers should find much to enjoy, and youngsters who can appreciate clever physical comedy should get a kick out of it, as well as anyone who misses wonderfully choreographed song-and-dance routines. (Also available are a single-disc set with a collection of skits, $12.95, and a two-disc set with seven episodes, $22.95. And for super fans, go to timelife.com for an 11-disc set with 25 episodes, $99.95, or a 22-disc set with 50 episodes, $199.95.)

“Wallender 3” (BBC, 2012, two discs, $34.98, three episodes). Kenneth Branagh is back as the world-weary police detective investigating puzzling murder cases in this trio of feature-length mysteries. Branagh is great, and the shows are vividly filmed and acted in this well-above-average police procedural.

“Touched By an Angel: the Sixth Season” (CBS/Paramount, 1999-2000, seven discs, $57.99, 26 episodes). Angels Monica (Roma Downey) and Tess (Della Reese) continue to minister to mortals with troubles in this beloved, uplifting series filmed in Utah, highlighted by an episode featuring Kirk Douglas. Other guests include Liam Neeson, Justin Timberlake, Shia LeBeouf, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Edward Asner, Cicely Tyson, Naomi and Wynonna Judd, and lots of local actors.

“Don McLean: American Troubadour” (TimeLife, 2012, $19.99, bonus songs, featurettes). Has it really been 40 years since “American Pie” hit the radio airwaves? Singer/songwriter McLean, whose hits also include “And I Love You So" and “Vincent,” is profiled in this documentary, which includes tributes from famous friends. A must-have for fans.

“The FBI: the Third Season, Part One” (Warner Archive, 1967-68, four discs, $29.95, 16 episodes); “The FBI: the Third Season, Part Two” (Warner Archive, 1968, three discs, $29.95, 11 episodes). More adventures in this FBI-sanctioned crime series with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Erskine, doggedly pursuing bank robbers, saboteurs, blackmailers, embezzlers, etc. Guests in Part One include Burt Reynolds, Martin Sheen, Carol Lynley, Edward Asner, Kevin McCarthy and Wayne Rogers. Guests in Part Two include Anne Baxter, Suzanne Pleshette, Tom Bosley and Wayne Rogers again, albeit in a different role. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)

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