If there’s anyone I want to spend Christmas with, it’s, you know, my family. After them, though, I suppose Carol Burnett wouldn’t be far behind. After all, she ranks incredibly high on my personal nostalgia scale, and let’s face it, Christmas is all about nostalgia. I suppose it’s also about Jesus and Santa and commercialism and really a bunch of other things. But you know those warm feelings you get when snow is falling outside and they hear ole Dean Martin or somebody singing about a red-nosed reindeer somewhere in the distance? That’s nostalgia. That’s all the latent memory of all the great times you’ve had on or around Christmases past creeping back in on you.
A lot of us grew up with the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials and Christmas songs performed by the great crooners and other singers long-gone. It seems like these things have always been there. And they have, as much of the media with which we define Christmas originated in the 1960s and 1970s. Very few modern works have been added to this pantheon, it seems. Sure, some folks watch Gremlins or Die Hard every Christmas, and I meet up with a group of folks annually to watch John Fankenheimer’s Reindeer Games on Christmas Eve. But these works aren’t quite as loaded with connotative meaning as those we’ve been exposed to since early childhood (and Reindeer Games also makes little to no sense, for the record).
But watching the episodes of The Carol Burnett Show collected on StarVista Entertainment’s Christmas with Carol DVD, I felt the distinct pangs of Christmas nostalgia… in spite of the fact that I had never actually seen these particular episodes. Somehow my recollections of having grown up watching The Carol Burnett Show in reruns and the unmistakable 1970s television production value and picture quality of these episodes combined to create this sensation. Whether or not you recall these episodes yourself, I surmise you too will be overwhelmed by a similar Christmas nostalgia when sitting down to Christmas with Carol, making for ideal holiday viewing.
This DVD, available from StarVista on November 12, 2013, collects two complete holiday episodes from The Carol Burnett Show: Show #813, which aired on December 21, 1974, and Show #1114, which aired on December 18, 1977. The first of these finds guest star Alan Alda plugging M*A*S*H, meeting fans with Burnett to accept some Christmas gifts in the opening, singing duets with Burnett, and co-starring in a pair of hilarious sketches. As if it all weren’t perfectly nostalgic enough already, the first sketch in this episode is in fact a “Family” sketch. You know, that series of sketches that would later become its own series called Mama’s Family. What’s more, the second episode features Ken Berry, the song and dance man who would later be the only actor to have appeared in every episode of Mama’s Family besides Vicki Lawrence, along with singer Helen Reddy! It’s a perfect storm of nostalgia. And as an added bonus, StarVista includes bonus holiday sketches from two episodes from 1967 and 1968, boasting appearances by Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters.
I say put The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol in your annual Christmas viewing rotation with Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and whichever iteration of A Christmas Carol you prefer, and you’re sure to find it’s not out of place.