American Masters: Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character



9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5
KCET Los Angeles

In the nearly 30 years since her comedy variety show left CBS, time has done nothing but cement Carol Burnett's reputation as the greatest living American comedienne.

This 90-minute episode of "American Masters," with its clips and interviews old and new, is a rich album of her awesome talent, not only as a comedic performer, but also as a singer and a character actor. Whatever she attempted to do when the lights were on her, she did well.

What happened when the spotlight was off is not as well-documented despite Burnett's cooperation with this project. Or, perhaps, because of it. Exec producer/creator Susan Lacy paints a vivid portrait of Burnett's difficult youth but this has all been reported so often that it is part of the legend. What is less well-known is Burnett's private life and thoughts since she became the star of her own show in 1967 and, with very few exceptions, these remain private.

An important part of "The Carol Burnett Show," which ran for 11 years, was the segment in which the star took questions from the audience and, without exception, answered with wit and charm. Lacy was clever enough to use those Q&A sessions, including one held this year in Santa Barbara, as the skeleton for this well-organized documentary. More than a dozen stars are separately interviewed. Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, players on Burnett's show, offered great insight. So, too, did Tracey Ullman and, particularly, Jon Cryer, who grew up knowing Burnett's family.