American Masters | Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character
Watch Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 1pm on WMHT TV.
America in the 1960s and ‘70s was in turmoil, but at 10 o’clock every Saturday night, in dorms and dens, in living rooms and bedrooms across the country, Americans watched “The Carol Burnett Show.” For 11 years, the wacky performer yelled like Tarzan, winning — and sometimes breaking — our hearts with her edgy yet always sympathetic characters. Burnett could fall down a flight of stairs as deftly as she held her own in a duet with Julie Andrews. Her antics, her creativity and her business smarts were groundbreaking, and inspired not only her TV contemporaries, but also generations of younger comediennes who followed her.
“It’s hard to explain now the multilayered impact of Carol Burnett on America’s entertainment industry,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming for PBS. “‘The Carol Burnett Show’ shaped how we spent our Saturday nights for the decade-plus that she reigned over television. Her work, her humor and her fearlessness also shaped the careers of so many entertainers who followed her. I’m very happy that, on the heels of her newest book launch, we can present a night dedicated to one of the true stand-outs in television comedy,” Hoppe added.
The show salutes this one-woman army of comedic characters who seduced countless Saturday night friends to fall in love with her and her wacky creations. The film is directed by Kyra Thompson, who frames the 90-minute film with one of Burnett’s signature devices: the audience Q&A that faithfully opened her weekly show (which won 25 Emmy Awards from 1967 to 1978). The questions — and Burnett’s hilarious improvised responses — provide the spine for a story of her life and career. Interviews with those who knew her best reveal the personal side of the public personae.