Carol Burnett leads host of TV sets
Owls Head — The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection (Time Life, 22 DVDs, NR, 62+ hours). “The Carol Burnett Show” debuted on CBS in 1967 and ran for 11 years and 278 episodes. It was one of the most honored television shows in history, receiving 25 Emmy Awards and five Golden Globes. What I like best about the show is it is a lot of fun, watching it you are forever smiling, if not laughing out loud. The viewer can just tell how much fun the cast was having. That core cast was Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, announcer/actor Lyle Waggoner and very frequent guest star Tim Conway (although he may have seemed a regular, Conway was not hired as a regular until season nine).
The Ultimate Set includes three sub-sets and two bonus sets. “Carol’s Favorites,” a 6-CD sub-set with 16 uncut episodes and more than three hours of bonus material, is available separately as well. The sub-set includes “Went with the Wind,” the classic parody of “Gone with the Wind” in which Burnett, as Starlet O’Hara, descends her grand staircase in a dress made from curtains, with the curtain rod included, and she purrs to Korman’s Rat Butler, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it.” That episode also has Conway as a slow butcher who tries businessman Korman’s patience. Steve Martin, fresh off his “Saturday Night Live” triumphs, and Betty White guest on another episode that includes the recurring parody “As the Stomach Turns,” with the sketch becoming a takeoff on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” with Conway in a silver bodysuit as the alien. The episode also includes a send-up of the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach party flicks, with some of the most ridiculous surfing special effects ever. Other guests in this sub-set are Roddy McDowell and The Jackson 5, Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine, Ken Berry and Carl Reiner (“Disaster ‘75” is the movie parody), Joan Rivers and Vincent Price, Pearl Bailey, Rock Hudson and Nancy Walker, Jim Nabors, and Jean Stapleton and Phil Silvers. Bonus features include a look at Burnett as a television pioneer, a 2004 interview with Korman and Conway, the first time Burnett did her Tarzan yell in a sketch from “The Garry Moore Show,” and interviews. Time Life interviewed more than 20 people, including guests from the show (White, Reiner, Jerry Lewis, Berry, Rita Moreno, Steve Lawrence, Lainie Kazan and Joel Grey); writers (Kenny Solms, Gail Parent, Ken and Mitzi Welch); designer Bob Mackie; and current performers influenced by Carol (Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch and Amy Poehler). These complete interviews are included throughout the sub-sets.
The 6-CD subset “This Time Together” features another 17 uncut episodes, with guests Steve Lawrence and Lily Tomlin, Pointer Sisters, Dick Van Dyke, McDowell and Bernadette Peters (with a Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock Paris ‘90s mini-musical), Petula Clark, Sammy Davis Jr. (with a salute to Harold Arlen mini-musical), Madeline Kahn, Eydie Gorme and Paul Sand, Peggy Lee and Stiller & Meara, and Hal Linden. Bonuses include a tribute to designer Mackie and a look at the TV commercials. The third sub-set is the 6-CD “One More Time,” with 17 more episodes. Guest stars include Joel Grey and Price, Telly Savalas and The Smothers Brothers, Betty White for the third time, Jack Klugman, Bernadette Peters, Helen Reddy and John Byner, and Tony Randall and Van Dyke. Extras include a look at “The Family” and the TV parodies. There are two two-disc sub-sets of bonus features, with more than 13 complete interviews, bonus sketches and two bonus episodes of “The Garry Moore Show,” including Burnett as Cinderella. The collection is definitely a keepsake with dozens of hours of fun. Grade: 4 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
The Lucy Show: Official Sixth and Final Season (1967-68, CBS/Paramount, 4 DVDs, NR, 612 min.). As Carol Burnett was starting her long TV reign, Lucille Ball was wrapping up hers. The show features her longtime partners Gale Gordon and Mary Jane Croft, while guests in the 24 episodes include Carol Burnett, Jack Benny, Frankie Avalon, Robert Goulet, Edie Adams, Phil Harris and others. In arguably the funniest episode, Lucy is hired as Milton Berle’s home secretary, but she comes to believe Berle is cheating on his wife and ends up dumping a bowl of Caesar salad on his head, said bowl remaining, and dripping little bits of salad throughout the remainder of the episode as the rest of the cast tries unsuccessfully at times to keep a straight face. Lucy later believes Joan Crawford is penniless, wreaks havoc with Sid Caesar’s bank account and reminisces with old pal Viv (Vivian Vance). Bonus features include clips from “The Carol Burnett Show” and the 1968 Emmy Awards, “Lucy Gets Her Diploma” with Italian audio, outtakes. Grade: 4 stars
The Incredible Mel Brooks (Shout! Factory, 5 DVDs + 1 CD, NR, 11+ hours). We already have all of Brooks’ films on DVD, now this set examines his TV work. As a director, actor, producer, composer and writer, Brooks is one of only 11 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. While the musical version of his “Producers” swept the Tony Awards in 2001, he first wrote for Broadway in 1952 with a sketch for Leonard Sillman’s popular revue, “New Faces of 1952.” On vinyl, he is famous for his “2000 Year Old Man” albums made with Carl Reiner. On radio, he did Ballantine Beer ads with Dick Cavett as the 2,500 Year Old Brewmaster. In 1949, in the earliest days of live television, he joined the writing staff of “The Admiral Broadway Revue,” which made a star of Sid Caesar, another graduate of the Borscht Belt resort hotels in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Next came writing for “Your Show of Shows, starring Imogene Coca, Reiner and Howard Morris. This set is housed in a 60-page hardcover book, which includes an appreciation by Gene Wilder, who performed in many of Brooks’ films, most notably “Young Frankenstein.”
The first DVD includes the HBO special “Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett Together Again,” a “Tracey Ullman Show” sketch, eight of his appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and the first of a five-part look at “Mel and His Movies,” with Brooks discussing memorable scenes and the stories behind them (each DVD contains a segment). DVD two includes the 1978 comedy special “Peeping Times,” with Brooks playing Adolph Hitler; the pilot for 1963’s “Inside Danny Baker”; a look back at the Caesar years in a 1996 reunion of Sid Caesar and nine of his writers; a “60 Minutes” profile of Brooks from 200; and Brooks’ tribute to Reiner at the 1991 American Comedy Awards. DVD three includes the short film “The Critic,” a BBC documentary on Brooks from 1981, two appearances on “The Dick Cavett Show,” some of his commercial work, a PBS look back at the 2000 Year Old Man and Bonus 2000 Year Old Man routines. The fourth DVD has Brooks’ TV debut in “Texaco Star Theater” (1951, with Milton Berle), an episode of the British series “An Audience With …,” a 1984 BBC interview, a “Mad About You” episode and four segments of Brooks providing the voice of the Blond-Haired Cartoon Man in the PBS series “The Electric Company.” The fifth DVD has an episode of “The David Susskind Show” (“How to be a Jewish Son”), the pilot for “Get Smart” (created by Brooks and Buck Henry), his Hollywood Walk of Fame induction, an episode from the TV series “When Things Were Rotten,” and his 1952 Broadway sketch. The bonus CD contains more commercials, three episodes of “The New Les Crane Show” from 1964 and many of his classic songs, including “Springtime for Hitler.” Grade: 4 stars
The Ernie Kovacs Collection: Volume 2 (Shout! Factory, 3 DVDs, NR, 9+ hours). Kovacs was another TV comedic genius, albeit the one with the cigar in his hand. Making their DVD debut are eight more episodes from his “National Morning Show” in 1956; 18 bonus sketches featuring his most beloved characters; three complete episodes of his offbeat game show “Take a Good Look”; his rare TV pilot for “Medicine Man,” with Buster Keaton and Kevin Brodie; “The Lively Arts” featuring the only existing filmed solo interview with Kovacs; and a 2011 American Cinematheque panel, narrated by Harry Shearer and with Kovacs cast member Jolene Brand and her husband George Schlatter (producer of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”) and others. There also are some home movies of Kovacs and his singer wife, Edie Adams. Grade: 3.5 stars
All in the Family: The Complete Series (1970-79, Shout! Factory, 28 DVDs, NR). There have only been a handful of truly groundbreaking TV shows and this was one of them, as it had America embrace Archie Bunker, a working stiff bigot, played by Carroll O’Connor and created by Norman Lear. Jean Stapleton played his ding-bat wife Edith, while Sally Struthers was daughter Gloria, who brought into the family liberal Mike (Rob Reiner before he became a famous director) as her boyfriend/future husband. Of course, Mike was always “Meathead” to Archie. The jokes targeted race, politics, sex and human foibles, but there was a lot of love beneath the shouting as well. This set includes all 208 episodes of the nine seasons, plus the original “Justice For All” pilot, the “Those Were the Days” second pilot, the “Gloria” spin-off pilot, the pilot of “Archie Bunker’s Place” and the “704 Hauser” pilot (a 1994 pin-off). For other bonus features, there is a new interview with Lear; two documentaries about making the series, one about the show’s beginnings and the other about the TV revolution it helped start; and a 40-page book with essays by TV critic Tom Shales and media professor Marty Kaplan. Grade: 4 stars
Friends: The Complete Series (1994-2004, Warner, 21 Blu-ray discs, NR). Another ground-breaking TV series -- certainly such as, like “Lost,” there have been so many attempts to clone it -- this marks the Blu-ray debut of all 10 seasons, all 236 episodes and more than 20 hours of bonus material, including four-plus hours of new material. Set in Manhattan, the series told the friendship of Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) and Ross Geller (David Schwimmer). Extras include “True Friends” documentaries, the original script and producer’s cut for “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross,” the 2004 “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the 2004-05 visits to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the original super-sized episodes from season seven, never-before scene gags and The Rembrandts music video. The Premium Collection includes a lenticular box cover, and hardcover book that holds the discs and a 36-page episode guide. Grade: 3.5 stars
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, 19 DVDs, NR) and Power Rangers: Seasons 4-7 (Shout! Factory, 21 DVDs, NR). Together, the two box sets present the complete series. The live-action children’s show, based on the 16th installment of the Japanese Super Sentai series, debuted in 1993, as two unsuspecting astronauts unleashed the evil of the witch Rita Repulsa. During the next 20 years, even more sinister villains have had to be dealt with by the Power Rangers, whose real strength lies in teamwork. Included in the first set is the 10-episode “Alien Rangers” miniseries and two discs of rare archival material and new retrospective featurettes. The second set picks up with Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa defeated again, but the Command Center is in ruins and King Mondo is on his way to Conquer Earth. The four seasons are named: “Power Rangers ZEO,” “Power Rangers Turbo,” “Power Rangers in Space” and “Power Rangers in Lost Galaxy.” The extras disc looks at characters Bulk and Skull, the stunt work, a lost episod4e and the fan-created Power Morphicon.
Power Rangers Samurai: Christmas Together Friends Forever (Lionsgate DVD, NR, 63 min.). The Samurai Rangers revisit their greatest moments in three episodes in this holiday-themed release.