Following StarVista’s wholly unsurprising success with their 2013 releases of The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Favorites and The Carol Burnett Show: This Time Together on DVD, they’re poised to replicate that success once more with the third of their 6-disc Carol Burnett Show releases: Carol’s Crack Ups. When it comes to nostalgic television, I don’t think any series is so dear to me as The Carol Burnett Show (with the exception perhaps of Mama’s Family). And I know I’m not alone in this. After all, a series couldn’t run for eleven seasons in the network television era if it didn’t have millions and millions of loyal viewers!
What made the series so special was the warmth and camaraderie among the cast that manages to shine brightly through any artifice that characterizes the scripting and staging. That the Carol Burnett players truly adored one another is perhaps no more obvious than when they break from their script, ad-libbing for one another’s (and our) benefit. In all the years I’ve been a fan of the series, I’ve found no episodes more transcendently funny than those in which the performers break scene or break character and simply laugh—or more specifically, try not to laugh. I have shed more than my fair share of hysterical tears watching Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and the rest turn beat red in the face of the inevitable Tim Conway ad-lib or a wacky costume.
To my mind then, Carol’s Crack Ups stands as the single most desirable of the 6-DVD Carol Burnett Show releases to date from StarVista, because it’s devoted to the very episodes that feature these crack up moments. Making it all-the-more special, these episodes were lovingly hand-picked by Burnett herself, just as those comprising the previous releases had been. The set includes seventeen episodes which features such sketches as the infamous “Family” sketch in which Conway ad-libbed about Siamese elephants until Vicki Lawrence called him an “asshole,” as well as one of my personal favorites: “Non-Violent Theatre: The Plot to Hurt Hitler.” In that sketch, guest star Carl Reiner manages to crack up Burnett and Korman while across the stage and Korman loses it a second time when he produces a ridiculous bomb prop from a bag. These are the moments I returned to The Carol Burnett Show for time and time again, and here we have an entire release devoted to it! How did we get so lucky?!
Guest stars in the collected episodes include the aforementioned Reiner, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Gloria Swanson, Roddy McDowall, and Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts regular Ruth Buzzi. And although having seventeen, uncut, crack up-centered episodes hand-picked by Burnett herself would have alone been enough for this release to be worth the purchase, StarVista packed this release with an additional two hours’ worth of bonus materials anyway. And bless them for doing so! Among the special features are five specially-produced featurettes, bonus sketches, an exclusive interview with Tim Conway.