The Carol Burnett Show really brought a bit of something for everyone during its 11 years on our TV screens. The variety show starred Carol Burnett and mostly made audiences laugh through the large number of sketches Burnett and her co-stars would act out. The star of the show had been in the TV world for 12 years by the time she got her own show – and this was certainly her most memorable TV moment. It was time for Carol Burnett to stop playing a guest star or bit parts, she was about to step into the limelight and really make a name for herself.
Even if some people tried to stop her from doing so… First airing in 1967, the variety show kept America entertained thanks to some of the funniest comic performers of all time, including Dick Van Dyke and Vicki Lawrence. They often spoofed popular movies and TV shows which proved to be hugely popular among TV audiences, along with coming up with their own original material too. Over the 279 original episodes, plus nine special episodes back in 1991, the series was consistently ranked in the top 30 most-watched shows in America.
The show was immensely successful, winning a whole cabinet full of awards, but wasn’t without its share of backstage drama. From setbacks to replacements, The Carol Burnett Show had plenty going on behind the scenes that many of us never saw. We’ve uncovered the secrets of the show, 40 years after the final episode aired.
Burnett, struggling for acting roles at UCLA, was performing at a college party when a perfect stranger came toward her and it finally looked as though her fortunes might be changing. She never has told anybody who this person was, but has said that the strange person came to her with a proposition. The person, a mysterious man, gave her something that would change her life forever. He approached Burnet with $1,000 and told her she could have this money on three conditions. Firstly, he would always remain anonymous, secondly, that when she made her money she would pay him back, and thirdly, if ever he was in the same position she would repay the favor. Although we don’t know who the man is, we can assume Burnett held up her end of the bargain as he remains anonymous to this day.
Burnett had signed a ten-year contract with the TV network CBS and part of that contract mentioned a variety act. The network told Burnett that during the first five years of her contract if she wanted to air a variety act, they would make it happen. Needless to say, Burnett decided she wanted to create a variety show, and after spending four years and 51 weeks thinking about it, she requested her own variety show in the last week of the five-year agreement. Despite this agreement in place, the network wasn’t all that keen, calling her premise a “man’s game,” as famous variety hosts such as Dean Martin and Sid Caesar already had their own variety shows. They weren’t sure about their agreement, so instead pitched a sitcom to Burnett, but she had her mind set on the variety show so she refused their offer. Insisting they carry on with the variety show, she wouldn’t budge and the network made good on their agreement, airing her variety show in 1967, and never looking back from that moment.