We’re all used to old TV shows getting cut up in reruns. The Carol Burnett Show got it worse than most. Not even the lawyers foresaw DVDs, let alone streaming, so no one figured out how to pay for all the songs in each episode.
Carol came from Broadway, so she’d often include big dancing and singing numbers. It could be The Jackson 5. It could be operatic soprano Beverly Sills. Syndicators cut down the hour-long “The Carol Burnett Show” into the music-free thirty-minute “Carol Burnett and Friends.” Carol would come out at the end with her autograph book, wearing a Bob Mackie-designed Sgt. Pepper costume. Bobbie Gentry, Phyllis Diller, and Gwen Verdon were there too … but no one would mention it. The whole five-minute song-and-dance medley was gone and “good night” was the only bit left.
Good news for us. You can now find (mostly) uncut episodes of “The Carol Burnett Show” on Amazon Prime and The Roku Channel and even officially licensed on YouTube. Give it a watch and come back…
I need to add that a lot of these restored musical numbers are really dated and often, more “dinner theater” than “show stopper.” Still, that’s why I love them. They’re such a part of what television was in 1967. This Beatles number was just a few months after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band” had debuted.
The rise of rock and roll couldn’t be ignored, so “The Carol Burnett Show” did its best to embrace “what the kids are listening to” and this is what you got. Bobby Gentry as “Paul,” jamming her long hair under a Beatles wig and pretending it wasn’t all pointy. (We’ll forgive that Paul’s a lefty.) Gwen Verdon as “George” but playing a keyboard for some reason. “John” – aka Phyllis Diller – wiggling her fingers on a mellophone and definitely skipping the “I’ll get high” part of the song.
In 1967, a TV show had to be for everyone. Grandma would sit through Mama Cass Elliot to see Bernadette Peters and the grandkids would do the opposite. Everybody got a little bit of what they wanted but also saw a bit of what else was out there. That said, I hope Carole King never sees this Las Vegas show choir version of “You’ve Got a Friend.” I love the retro cheese and showbiz sincerity, but I also hope those poor dancers got revenge on Bob Mackie for the unisex gold lamé jeans and hoodies.