But today's post is a slightly happier theme, although it too is rooted in tragedy.
Comedy's Leading Lady With Troubles At Home
Indeed, Ms. Burnett's struggles with her daughter Carrie, along with her disclosure of those to the public, helped push a new first lady named Nancy Reagan to adopt the cause of drug abuse as her signature campaign known as "Just Say No" following Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.
To Carol's credit, her willingness to be public about her struggles with Carrie also helped many parents realize they weren't alone in the struggle in dealing with kids that were addicted to drugs. However, to some extent, much of Generation X was treated as one that needed to be saved from drug abuse when not all kids even had those struggles. Not all kids of that era were abusing drugs, yet Gen X kids were kind of treated as if we all were a bunch of aimless potheads regardless, often by parents who had a stash of marijuana of their own.
|Carol Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton|
That's why when Carol Burnett's daughter Carrie, who had successfully rebuilt her life and relationships later passed away from lung cancer in 2002 (see http://bit.ly/10NwwTo for the People magazine coverage of Carrie's passing, although there's a nicer version which features full-color scans of the original at http://goo.gl/kgrg4), it was kind of a sad postscript not only for Carol, but also a sign that not every Hollywood story has a happy ending.
This week, CBS' Sunday Morning news show featured a nice interview with Carol Burnett, who perhaps not coincidentally, happens to have a new book coming out on April 9, 2013. Her new book, unlike her biography, is in honor of her daughter Carrie entitled "Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story" (which can be found at http://amzn.to/16IGjPw). Although the interview barely addresses the new tribute to her daughter, we do see Carol touring the old CBS studio where "The Carol Burnett Show" was filmed back in the day (today, the gameshow "The Price Is Right" is recorded there), and we get to see a few vintage clips from her show. You may watch the CBS Sunday Morning inteview with Carol Burnett by visiting http://cbsn.ws/10LZnd2.
In the end, as Carol told CBS News, as a parent, one never really gets over the loss of a child, but she says you learn to cope with it because she says she and other parents like her have no other choice. Her new book is meant to be Carol's tribute to her late daughter Carrie. She wrote it to be a funny yet moving memoir about raising Carrie through the struggles and triumphs of her life. Carol shares her personal diary entries, photos, correspondence, and traces the journey she and Carrie took through some of life's toughest challenges and sweetest miracles.
Although I haven't read the book myself (it won't be released until tomorrow), coming from one of comedy's greatest legends, I did read Carol's own autobiography "This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection" which I enjoyed, as I thought it was written in a very readible way yet was also entertaining, much like Carol Burnett herself.
These days, reruns of "The Carol Burnett Show" aren't widely seen on television even on networks known for reruns including TV Land, Me-TV, Antenna TV or RTV-Retro Television. As a consolation, Carol had sold a limited set of episodes direct-to-consumers on videocassette and later on DVD from the direct marketing firm Guthy-Renker until that company left the entertainment distribution business to focus on beauty products. Since then, collections of "The Carol Burnett Show" have been sold by Time Life at http://carolburnettdvdstore.com/ (although they can also be ordered on Amazon.com).
"The Carol Burnett Show" was perhaps one of the longest-running television variety shows (which as a genre, really no longer exists today). "The Sonny and Cher Show" preceded Carol Burnett on CBS, but didn’t manage to survive the stars of that show’s own marriage ending in divorce. However, the variety show genre continued through the early 1980s, we saw that genre continue with several variety shows produced by Sid and Marty Krofft (better known for their psychodelic puppet show "H.R. Pufnstuf" which I never really enjoyed, perhaps because I wasn't taking drugs as a kid) including the ill-fated "Brady Bunch Variety Hour" (which even the some of the cast members, including Susan Olsen who played Cindy Brady, ridiculed in a book entitled "Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour"), "The Osmonds" which aired a few years later, and perhaps what was of the Krofft's last major network variety shows (and arguably the last of the major network variety show genre) "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters" which ran for a few years (from 1980-1982) on NBC, with that one being more country music-themed than the predecessors (see my post of country cross-over artists at http://goo.gl/9Lstp.
Carol Burnett Show Spinoffs
"The Carol Burnett Show" also gave birth to syndicated spinoffs such as "Mama's Family" (which starred Vicki Lawrence which began as a recurring skit on "The Carol Burnett Show" called "The Family". That spinoff which ran for one and a half seasons on NBC (from 1983-1984) also featured actress Rue McClanahan as Mama's uptight spinster sister Fran Harper, who was a journalist for a local newspaper. Of course, Rue McClanahan left the show to join a show which would be a far bigger hit for her personally, as well as for NBC, specifically, "The Golden Girls" which ran for an impressive eight seasons on Saturday evenings, doing well in the ratings the entire time. After a series of time-changes for "Mama's Family" on NBC, the show stopped but was subsequently retooled by removing the character Fran and adding Eunice and Ed Higgins' delinquent son Bubba (played by Allan Kayser) and a prissy neighbor Iola Boylin best known for making various cozies for various household appliances.
Although the syndicated version "Mama's Family" was entertaining and generally well-done, "The Family" skits on Carol Burnett were much funnier, often with a very biting humor that the spinoff kind of lacked. Of course, Carol herself starred Eunice (nee Harper) Higgins, who was only in four of the original spinoff's episodes, while Carol appeared in just one episode on the second iteration of "Mama's Family" which ran in syndication from 1997 to August 2006 after being dropped by NBC.
Without getting too far off topic (at one time, I thought about writing about variety shows, but there wasn't much more to say about them than I've written here), Carol Burnett's interview on CBS Sunday morning offers a great overview of "The Carol Burnett Show" as well as a glimpse into Carol Burnett's personal struggle raising her daughter Carrie and also provides a good description for her motivation behind writing her latest book "Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story". Although I can envision an entire post on "The Carol Burnett Show", the challenges she had raising her daughter Carrie was really how I started this post, and I think it helps portray that era. I was lucky enough to have caught that clip on CBS Sunday Morning, saving me from having to create much of that on my own. I hope my readers will consider that perspective and possibly read Carol Burnett's new book with that perspective in mind.
Author P.S., May 20, 2014: The surviving cast [Carol, Tim, Lyle, Vicki, and show costume designer Bob Mackie] of "The Carol Burnett Show" were reunited on "The Queen Latifa Show".