"I'm so glad we had this time together Just to have a laugh or sing a song Seems we just get started and before you know it Comes the time we have to say, 'So long.'"
A hit sketch comedy show on CBS, running for 11 seasons (1967-1978). The show followed a very simple format of comedy sketches, TV and movie parodies, and musical numbers. What set it apart was how off the wall the actors and writers would take things. Basically anything went as long as it was funny (and could air on TV, of course). Many also consider it to be the first comedy variety show centered around a woman.It starred Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner among others. One of the more popular sketches spun off into Mama's Family.
Corpsing: Tim Conway was notorious for breaking up the others on the show. In many of the sketches featuring Conway and Harvey Korman, it was all Korman could do to get through it without collapsing. And keep in mind, it wasn't like this was live: the show was taped. Conway was just that funny. Causing Carol Burnett herself to lose it was a major feat, but Conway accomplished it several times. (Here, for instance.)
It got to the point that the cast would have a weekly pool to see how long it would take Tim Conway to make someone (mainly Harvey Korman) break character.
Once in a while, Carol or Vicki would get even with Tim by making him corpse... for example, during the "Flasher" sketch, which was less an actual sketch than a giant prank on Tim.
Costume Porn: Bob Mackie did virtually all the outfits on the show, from the grand to the silly.
Early-Installment Weirdness: "The Family". Any Mama's Family fans unfamiliar with the sketches are likely to be surprised at Mama's nastier demeanor (though it did continue into Mama's Family's early episodes) and much of the focus being on Eunice, who's presented here as more sympathetic. Also, in addition to Eunice and Ellen, a number of other Harper children are introduced, but are never seen again, most notably Philip Harper (Roddy McDowall), who was originally the focus of the first sketch.
Edited for Syndication: The intros with the audience and non-musical sketches were edited into the half hour 1978 show Carol Burnett and Friends.
Enforced Method Acting: According to Carol, the reason behind Ms. Wiggins's trademark walk was due to the fact that the skirt she was given was too large and walking that way was the only way to keep it from falling off.
Girl Scouts Are Evil: A recurring sketch with Carol playing a girl scout who blackmails people into buying lots of cookies. One of those people being played by Vincent Price.
Inept Talent Show Contestant: As mentioned, Eunice has a spot on The Gong Show and is so convinced that her singing talent will be her ticket away from her family that she does a lot of bridge-burning before the show. Bad idea.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The first five seasons of the series (1967-1972) are co-owned with Bob Banner, preventing them from subsequent syndication and home video releases. With Banner's death in 2011, the outcome of this looks uncertain.
The bulk of the musical numbers have not been seen since the original network airings due to licensing issues. Eventually, a DVD collector's edition of the show which includes the musical numbers was released by mail order offering only 2 episodes per $19.95 disc, the extra money going for the licensing.
Stop Trick: In one sketch, Carol Burnett plays a bored housewife trying to crash a party next door. She goes into the bedroom in a bathrobe and curlers, and seconds later emerges completely dressed, coiffed, and made-up. Slightly averted in that the camera angle did change, but the effect was the same.
Throw It In: The show would only do two takes a sketch, meaning even flubbed lines would get thrown in the broadcast.
Til Murder Do Us Part: Played straight and/or parodied in several sketches, including this one. Most of these attempts go as well as you'd expect.
Title Drop: Twice in the Gone With the Wind parody.
Waxing Lyrical: A few characters in "Went With the Wind" quote folk songs. One instance, in which Rat recites "Dixie", gets lampshaded when Sissy suggests setting those words to music.
What Could Have Been: In interviews, Tim Conway said that in the 80s he was offered a chance to star in a Mr. Tudball spin-off. He declined because he didn't see much potential for storylines, plus the fact that Carol would not be playing Miss Wiggins.