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In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett (Crown Archetype, $37)

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“We all get older, if we’re lucky.  So, if I had to choose, I’m happy I was there at that time…to have a laugh or sing a song.”

-Carol Burnett (from In Such Good Company)

I make it no secret that my favorite television genre is comedy/variety.  Growing up in the ‘70’s every network had at least one show like that on their primetime schedule.  (Today those programs have been supplanted by late night talk shows.)  My favorite as a child was The Carol Burnett Show, broadcast on CBS every Saturday night at 10 pm.  2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the aforementioned program’s debut.  Now its eponymous star has written a memoir of their legendary, award-winning run called In Such Good Company:  Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox.

In Such Good Company details the history of The Carol Burnett Show from inception and assembly of the cast and crew to its end and final legacy in the pantheon of TV history, all from the author’s perspective, with amusing, fun anecdotes and intriguing, detailed insider stories.

One of the purposes of the book is to give proper credit for the show’s achievements to the hard-working behind-the-scenes people who rarely get recognized by the general public for their contributions.  After all, what would the Gone With the Wind parody Went With the Wind be without that hilarious dress made out of curtains that was created by costume designer Bob Mackie?  And how about all those original songs by Artie Malvin or Ken & Mitzie Welch? Burnett is generous with her praise and makes sure they get their due, especially the enormously talented and highly underrated Harvey Korman whose “first, best destiny” was to do The Carol Burnett Show…in one edition he would play several different types of characters and was always able to find the humour in all of them.  (The end of the volume features lists of all the writers and guest stars who helped make it the success it was.)

Where In Such Good Company falters is the in the quality of the writing.  I need to report Ms. Burnett to the punctuation police for abuse of exclamation marks; employing them as if the publisher paid her per.  And while I love the stories, the sentence structure is clumsy and repetitive.  The author also lays on the old “now-a-days it’s not like it used to be” and “good ol’ days” a little too thick and a little too often; I’m all for nostalgia, and yes, it’s not the same anymore, but times do change.  It’s called evolution.  (But I must say she is correct some things were better back in the day.)

When I was a teenager I was part of the Dawson College TV program.  Our studio was called CFCD and we would collaborate daily on productions of all kinds.  It was one of the happiest periods in my life.  I have never, before or since, felt the same comradery.  I’m a very sentimental person, and reading In Such Good Company reminded me of those times.  Nothing like a stroll down memory lane, is there?  And if you watched The Carol Burnett Show, are into TV history, or want to understand how comedy works, this book is for you.

“I’m so glad we had this time together…”

Twitter:  @Akessaris

Blog:  essaysbyandreas.blogspot.ca

About Andreas Kessaris

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