The Carol Burnett Show "The Family"

Discussion in 'Notable TV' started by Jimmy Todd, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I really like most of the skits with Eunice, Ed, and Mama. However, there are a few that are much more drama than comedy. In fact, there os a dark undertone to all the skits. It's basically about unhappy alcoholics who are stuck with each other as a result of an unplanned pregnancy who abuse each other and their children. It's a credit to the brilliant writing and acting that they could walk that line between comedy and tragedy so skillfully.
    What do people think? Were they too dark, hilarious, hard to take or a brilliant mix of all three?
     
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  2. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, CB definitely wanted those skits to be more than just slapstick comedy. There was enough humor for a comedy-variety show, of course, but underneath the thin veneer of dysfunctional family comedy, there was a lot of deep neuroses and pointed comments that make their skits more drama than comedy. I guess it's a credit to the writers that they could walk that line. Having the characters appear as recurring skits allowed them to mix it up somewhat; some weeks their material was uproariously funny, while other episodes had very little laughter. It gave everyone (Burnett, Korman, Lawrence, all the guest stars) the chance to sink their teeth into something more than just punchlines and physical comedy. Your heart would sort of go out to a basket case like Eunice (when you saw how her family treated her), but then she'd say or do something that reminded you that she is just as bad as they are, and sometimes worse.

    The TV-movie Eunice that was done after Carol's show ended was at times quite tragic/sad, a worthy extension to the skits (though I'm sure the fans of the original series must have been confused by how "heavy" Eunice got sometimes). They even killed off 'Mama' half-way through!

    The backstage problems surrounding the revival series, Mama's Family, makes for interesting reading, but I think the original NBC version tried to be more like the skits in tone, even as NBC wanted it to be a more typical, superficial family sitcom. CB only guest-starred in occasional episodes during the NBC period, but when Eunice did appear, the characters seemed very much the same as they had been years before in a different format. I fondly recall an episode that centered around the family trying to have a birthday celebration for Eunice that ended with Eunice and Mama thrown in jail. A woman in the cell with them pointed out they were too much alike, and that they ought to try to get along--which caused some of the same dramatic pauses you got in the old CB sketches.

    After it returned in first-run syndication (minus Burnett), there was no attempt at being anything other than that typical, silly sitcom--but it actually worked better in my opinion in that final incarnation. No introspection, no irony, no dramatic pauses--just a lot of bickering and insult humor. I like my sitcoms to be mindless fun. Perhaps the absence of Eunice* made it easier for them to make the characters more superficial.

    * They wrote one amazing episode that featured Eunice in a flashback to her teen years. They hired an actress who nailed CB's Eunice so well, I make a point of watching that episode whenever it airs just to marvel at the interpretation. It's also note-worthy because the memory/flashback causes Thelma (Mama) to become uncharacteristically sad and depressed, perhaps a callback to how they brought out the worst in one another.
     
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  3. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I watched CAROL BURNETT as a kid and enjoyed the family sketches a lot (never saw much of MAMA'S FAMILY however).

    But whenever those sketches came on, my father had to leave that part of the house where he couldn't hear them -- he'd been raised by two alcoholics, two parents who'd fortunately never abused him, but shuttled him around to kindly family members while their drunken marriage disintegrated. The fights scarred him so much, that whenever he'd hear domestic fighting in a movie or a TV program, he pronounce it "the worst movie I've ever seen!!" (even when it was great) and would turn it off or get away from it.

    He was a bright guy, but never had any insight into this particular quirk. So that's one of the first things I think of with family sketches.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I remember that episode witb the little Eunice. She was awesome! They shoukd have hired that actress as a regular and made her one of Eunice's nieces. She could have been Ellen's daughtwe and act just like Eunice!
     
  5. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I think this shows how brilliant the skits were because they hit so many emotional buttons for the audience. I know someone who told me his family was like that when he was growing up. He can't watch the Family because he says he lived that story.
     
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