Return of 'Queen of Television' will be reunion for Carol Burnett cast, too

January 08, 1993|By New York Daily News

For 11 hilarious years, Carol Burnett kept America in stitches. She shared the title of Queen of Television with the late Lucille Ball, and starred in "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967 to 1978.

Just why her variety series lasted so long is in evidence on CBS Sunday, when "The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion" is televised (WBAL Channel 13, 9 p.m.).

"It was the right time to do it," declared Ms. Burnett, reminding us it's the silver anniversary of the series. "And what's more amazing is we have the whole gang back for the reunion -- Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner."

Mr. Korman is co-executive producer (with Ms. Burnett) of the reunion show. "I look at it as not going back," explained Ms. Burnett, "but a way of having fun and getting back on the bicycle. Among the five of us we have 125 years of experience. Vicki was only 17 when we found her."

Nowadays, she said, the fun is going out of TV. "And after all, that's what show business was supposed to be about," she said.

She said there's no more spontaneity, which existed in live TV, but has been destroyed with film and tape: "I look at people whose eyes are bleary and I know it's from the constant repeating and repeating a scene.

"When you're doing something in front of a live audience, interrupting constantly [to reshoot], you're not treating the people as an audience. They'll tell you what's funny and what's not. The audience doesn't care if a lamp shade is crooked or you're doing something perfect. This isn't a movie. It's television. I always liked to live dangerously."

Ms. Burnett considers herself lucky. In her early career she had mentors like Garry Moore: "I was taught by a pro, I could see how he treated people. . . . He didn't make it hard; he made it fun. People forget that's what we went into this business for."

Ms. Burnett and her gang didn't forget. Clips for Sunday's reunion are taken from 280 shows they did over the 11 years. "I do an opening number, and as the song is going on we pop back to the past," said Ms. Burnett. "Clips have been organized into categories like movie takeoffs, the Tugball and Wiggins skits, family, etc.

"After they bump up the lights, we have a question-and-answer session with the audience. One question asked is, 'What was your most embarrassing moment?' " Easy, she said.

"It was during a satire of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a barn show. One of the horses relieved himself, and we have it on film."

After the reunion, what's next for Ms. Burnett?

"I have a proposal with CBS for a half-hour series," she said. "I would play a soap opera queen. It would be a look at the people behind the scenes, a show within a show, with me also playing the good and evil sisters in the soap opera, too. I would like it to be more of a satire, but I know that's a dirty word. I'm not sure the network would be comfortable with it. But I like to try different things."

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