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Carol Burnett is unhappy that reruns are cut in half

Old segments are repackaged half-hour long

Carol Burnett
Carol Burnett

HOLLYWOOD — Carol Burnett's old variety shows are going to start airing on TV Land this weekend. But not all of her old variety shows.

As has been the case since "The Carol Burnett Show" ended its 11-year run in 1978, what viewers have seen is the comedy and not so much the variety. At least not the musical variety. What TV Land will be airing is the half-hour "Carol Burnett and Friends" cut-downs of the original hourlong shows.

Which is not the way Burnett herself would like to see it. But it's the way it is because paying for the rights to the music that was such a big part of the hourlong show would be prohibitively expensive. (Unlike the residuals performers receive — which, after a few airings, largely evaporate — music rights remain expensive virtually in perpetuity.)

"We can't have the music, so we put the sketches in," Burnett said. "And that was it. That's how it came about."

The only way to see "The Carol Burnett Show" in its original form is to buy DVDs. (The music rights structure is different for recordings.) It's something Burnett is thrilled to see, although it isn't exactly making her rich.

"I get about a penny (for each DVD sold)," Burnett said. "It's true. Because of residuals and all of that, I don't get much.

"I wanted the show out, though, at Columbia House because these shows have the music in them, which we can't show. And I thought that so many people never really saw the full hour."

Tim Conway, one of her second bananas on the old show, seconded that notion.

"One of the things that I never heard about when I was doing 'The Carol Burnett Show' was ratings or money," Conway said. "I genuinely don't think that Carol was that interested in ratings during that time period. And I honestly don't believe that she's that interested in money. I mean, when she says that she would like people to see the shows, I truly believe that."

Conway also wants viewers to have a way to see some of the "terrific things done on the musical presentations on the show."

"We did movie musical takeoffs and some original music," Burnett said. "And then we did salutes to composers and lyricists and made little stories with their songs."

It was great stuff — the kind of stuff that nobody does in television today. And the kind of stuff a lot of viewers under the age of 40 or so have never seen.

"What's interesting is that sometimes I'll see people in the grocery store or the airport or this or that, and they'll come up to me and say, 'Well, we were raised on your show,' " Burnett said. "And I look at them and I say, 'No, they never saw the full show.' They were raised on the reruns."

ON TV LAND: "Carol Burnett and Friends" comes to TV Land with a 48-hour marathon that begins Saturday at 4 a.m. on the cable channel. Beginning Monday, it will be seen weekdays at 2 and 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 6 p.m.

JULIE AND CAROL AGAIN? Burnett and Julie Andrews, who co-headlined three network specials (1962, 1969 and 1971), are thinking about a reunion of sorts.

"We're talking about possibly doing a retrospective of the three shows that Julie and I did together," Burnett said. "We would do it kind of the way we did our recent ('Carol Burnett Show' reunion) — Julie and I would take questions from a live studio audience and then we would segue into certain scenes from those shows."

However, it may not come to pass for the same reason you can't see hourlong versions of her variety show on TV.

"It's a very expensive show. That's the problem," Burnett said. "Because it's mostly music. So we'll see."

IN-FLIGHT EMBARRASSMENT: Burnett doesn't have a lot of regrets about a career that stretches back nearly five decades, but there is one thing she would definitely do differently.

"I wouldn't do 'The Front Page.' That was a movie I was in and I was so terrible in it," she said of the 1974 film.

She recalled getting on an airplane once and discovering that the in-flight movie would be "The Front Page." And she wasn't happy.

"I never wanted to see it. Because I knew when I was doing it I was awful."

But she couldn't exactly stop it.

"When the flight attendant announced (the movie), people turned around and looked and waved," said Burnett, who then suffered through the screening. And when it was over, "Not one person turned around to smile at me. . .. So I went up to the flight attendant — I told my husband I was going to the john — and I said, 'Could I just talk on the microphone, just for a minute?'

"And I said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, hi. This is Carol Burnett. I just happened to be on the flight this afternoon and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of you for my performance.'

"It was so cleansing."


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com