Long-time entertainment veteran Carol Burnett celebrated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of The Carol Burnett Show with a reunion of parts of her cast, many guests, and various celebrities who acknowledge her contributions to entertainment. The CBS special did unexpectedly well in the ratings, scoring 15 million viewers, bested only by NBC’s Sunday Night Football at 16 million.
The Carol Burnett Show was a comedy-sketch variety show which ran from 1967 to 1978. It served as the spotlight career platform for comedians such as Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence. It was also a common guest stop for top celebrities in its day, including Steve Martin, Sid Caesar, Art Carney, Phyllis Diller, Leonard Nimoy, Carol Channing, and countless more over its decade-long run.
The ratings bump was unexpected because many younger age viewers had to have tuned in, whom would have been too young to appreciate the show’s first run. However, the special was a star-studded appearance of modern day legends in their own time, including a very sweet appearance by comedy actor Jim Carey. In addition, two faces familiar from the show, Harvey Korman and Art Carney, also happened to appear in the ill-fated Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, which has led to a cult following among fans of the continuing Star Wars franchise.
The popularity of Carol Burnett’s special and this era of comedians in general could signal an interest in reviving the variety show format. While variety shows played out in the 1970s, modern day news-comedy sketch shows such as Last Week Tonight as well as reality TV shows capture part of the spirit of “anything goes” television.
Burnett and several cast members revisited some of their most iconic sketch routines over the years, then joined for a sentimental musical number or two around the piano. Burnett, aged 84, has been an honored entertainer with numerous awards spanning from a Peabody award in 1962 to a Lifetime Achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2015.