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Tuesday, July 25, 2017


A lot of people these days only know Harvey Korman from his Mel Brooks movies ("That's Hedley!"), but there was a time before that when his star shone brightly as the Emmy-winning second banana on TV's legendary "The Carol Burnett Show."

Time-Life's DVD release THE BEST OF HARVEY KORMAN assembles four complete (more or less) nostalgia-heavy episodes from 1969-71, three of which haven't been seen in 40 years, and they serve as a real time machine back to the way variety shows looked in those days.

Watching them now, the show's comedy is as incredibly corny as it can be, with paper-thin writing and forced punchlines, but also with a laidback informality (the performers break character often to either ad-lib or crack up at each other) that continues to appeal.

Production-wise, it often looks almost like a local TV production even though it was a top-rated show on a major network.  Strangely enough, this also adds to the show's charm--it didn't need a big budget with such likable performers to keep audiences happy.

Chief among these of course was Carol, that lovable, rubber-faced genius of physical and verbal comedy who always came across as the superstar next door.  She was a bundle of sparkling personality, especially during the celebrated Q & A segments with the studio audience.

Korman was second only to her in versatility, playing everything from henpecked husbands to weaselly lotharios (as in the lengthy and tedious Latin lover sketch) and everything in between. 

Rounding out the cast was cartoonishly handsome Lyle Waggoner, forever goodnaturedly spoofing his own manly image, while a sweetly callow Vicki Lawrence was the perennial "kid sister" before her eventual breakthrough as "Mama."

Comedy skits alternate with often cringe-inducing song and/or dance numbers, with the first episode in the set giving Lyle and Vicki solo songs that are less than memorable. Even veteran performers such as Bernadette Peters, Nancy Wilson, and Diahann Carroll can't do much with the tacky arrangements they're given. (A pre-"Jeffersons" Isabel Sanford appears briefly as a housekeeper in one segment.)

As for Korman, his appearances in the set are sporadic--the episodes seem pretty much picked at random and don't really showcase his best work at all.  The fact that he's in them seems enough to qualify them for inclusion here.

A skit in which he appears in drag seems to be the collection's highlight. Other points of interest are "The Old Folks" (Harvey and Carol as a doddering elderly couple), a solo comedy song emphasizing Harvey's vanity, Harvey as Richard Nixon, and a guest appearance by future castmember Tim Conway who would become Harvey's most frequent comedy foil. 

While not exactly THE BEST OF HARVEY KORMAN as the title suggests, it's fun to watch these episodes again after all this time and relive those decades-old memories.  Still, viewers who aren't seeing these creaky old skits and corny musical numbers through a golden haze of nostalgia might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Buy it at

Format: DVD/Single
Running Time: 178 minutes
Genre:  TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo


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