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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love’ On NBC, A Star-Studded Celebration Of The Comedy Legend

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Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love

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It goes without saying that Carol Burnett is an entertainment legend. And on the occasion of her 90th birthday on April 26, NBC is airing a two-hour special where one star after another takes the stage, reviews the highlights of Burnett’s career and pay tribute to the still-active star, who sits front and center in the audience with her good friend Julie Andrews.


The Gist: Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love, taped in March at the Avalon Hollywood theater, is a pretty traditional retrospective of Burnett’s career, with a video package featuring an interview with the legend and clips of her start on Broadway, in Once Upon A Mattress, and in various TV shows during the medium’s early days. Her big break on TV was when she was cast as a regular on The Gary Moore Show. Her three specials with Andrews are also covered, as well as a 1977 special Burnett did with opera star Beverly Sills; Kristin Chenoweth and Bernadette Peters duet on the most famous song from that special.

Of course, a significant portion of the show is devoted to The Carol Burnett Show, her comedy-variety series that ran on CBS from 1967-78. Amy Poehler comes out to do an audience Q&A like Burnett used to do, and finds it more difficult than she thought. Later, both Marisa Tomei and Maya Rudolph don some of the most famous costumes from the show, and designer Bob Mackie shows some of the other iconic designs he created. Vicki Lawrence, pretty much the only surviving member of the show’s regular cast, talks about how Burnett brought her onto the show when she was an 18-year-old who had written Burnett a fan letter.

Burnett’s movie and TV acting career is also covered, especially her role as Mrs. Hannigan in the 1982 film version of Annie. We even get Bob Odenkirk paying tribute, as Burnett played Saul Goodman’s mother in the last six episodes of Better Call Saul. Cher comes out in an appropriately outrageous outfit to thank Burnett for helping her when she was setting out on her own after her divorce from Sonny Bono, and Katy Perry closes the show with Burnett’s signature song, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.”

Also appearing: Jane Lynch, Billy Porter, Steve Carrell, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Aileen Quinn (the title character of Annie), Charlize Theron, Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Kristen Wiig, Ellen DeGeneres, Lily Tomlin and more.

Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love
Photo: Casey Durkin/NBC

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The format of Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love is similar to that of shows like The Kennedy Center Honors: Singing, dancing, and lots of clips.

Performance Worth Watching: Bernadette Peters does two numbers during this special; one with Chenoweth and another with Porter. We have been fans for decades, of course, but we’re also amazed that she doesn’t at all seem to age (she’s 75, remarkably enough).

Memorable Dialogue: Janney, on stage with Dern and Wiig — all three are co-starring with Burnett in the new Apple TV+ series Palm Royale — deadpans to Burnett, “I’m not really familiar with your work, but you must be very good for this many stars to be kissing your ass tonight.”

Sex and Skin: Besides a scene from The Larry Sanders Show where Burnett tells Larry (Garry Shandling) that she saw his balls in a sketch, the show is pretty family friendly.

Our Take: It’s hard to encapsulate a nearly 70-year career in a two-hour special, so it’s not a surprise that Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love gives just the major highlights of Burnett’s life in entertainment. What we appreciated is that it hit all of the big moments, and gave the appropriate amount of time to the biggest ones.

The segments on The Carol Burnett Show, of course, took up the majority of the show’s runtime, and what we appreciated is that it was as much a tribute to Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Lawrence than it was about Burnett. It points to her generosity and ability to appreciate the talent of others. We’ve seen a lot of the clips that were shown in other retrospectives about the show, but they were still fun to see in this context.

Other things we loved seeing was the equally legendary Andrews sitting next to her dear friend Burnett for the entire special, Poehler fielding audience questions about the afterlife and the end of the world, and Cher being Cher. But what we loved seeing the most is Burnett, taking it all in and displaying the same signature sense of humor that’s defined her career; she may be 90, but she’s far from done, and that vivaciousness was on display here.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love is a pretty straightforward tribute special, but the parade of A-listers, along with the entertaining clips of Burnett’s amazing career, makes the special a fun way to spend two hours.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company