Liz Smith: Carol Burnett, The Emmys, Favorite TV Shows

They All Cheered (And Cried!) For Carol Burnett … Thoughts On The Emmys … The 100 “Favorite” TV Shows of All Time — What Are Yours?

“IT’S NOT because the talent isn’t out there. There are plenty of people who could do a variety show like mine. I’m thinking of Kristin Chenoweth, who is here this evening. She can do anything. She’s funny, a wonderful actress and an incredible voice!”


Liz Smith: Carol Burnett, The Emmys, Favorite TV Shows, the three tomatoesThat was the legendary Carol Burnett last week in Manhattan at a special screening of some of her “lost episodes” from “The Carol Burnett Show.” (Burnett was joined by designer Bob Mackie for the night. It was put together by Time/Life and The Cinema Society.)

MISS Chenoweth, who was indeed in the packed screening room at the Roxy Hotel, put her hands to her face, blushing furiously. She was clearly moved.

Emotion, in fact, was a big part of this event. Miss Burnett brings it out. Alec Baldwin, Michael Stipe, Lance Bass, RuPaul, Valerie Simpson, James Curich, Scott Gorenstein, Emile Ravenet, and others were all pretty misty-eyed over Carol. (And even mistier after they’d sampled cocktails named after some of Burnett’s most beloved characters — Eunice, Mrs. Wiggins, Mildred Fierce.) Even the usually unflappable Cinema Society founder, Andrew Saffir, got choked up while introducing Carol. (“I’m getting a cold!” Andrew said, laughing, when teased.)

BOB Mackie said Carol was the easiest star to fit because she was very quick, and didn’t spend time fussing in the mirror over every stitch and sequin. He would not tattle on the more difficult stars. (Well, he might have told fashion’s perennially opulent Andre Leon Talley who served as the event moderator. They chatted quite a bit, after.)

And there was some gasping during the Q&A when a young woman stood up and asked Carol, “Did they have awards back then? Did your show win any?” Miss Burnett took it in stride. She shushed the gaspers and sweetly replied, “Yes, dear. We won 25 Emmys.”

SPEAKING of Emmys, Sunday night’s three-hour telecast was — pretty boring. Host Andy Samberg looked very cute in his variety of dinner jackets and tuxes, but his jokes were lame, even cringe-inducing at times. And, of course, he (and a few others) just couldn’t give us a respite from the name Donald Trump for even one night.

Liz Smith: Carol Burnett, The Emmys, Favorite TV Shows, viola davis, the three tomatoesI was happiest for Viola Davis, who, with “How To Get Away With Murder,” has finally achieved the kind of career and powerful image she deserves. She is the first African American to win the Best Actress Emmy in a drama series. (I was among the few who disliked the much-praised “The Help” and despaired that the brilliant Miss Davis was, yes, dammit, playing a maid.) Her pro-woman, pro-diversity, pro-opportunity Emmy speech was wonderful.

THRILLED for Jon Hamm who looked quite handsome and rather melancholic. He mentioned many people he said he owed his life and career to — first names only. But I didn’t hear “Jennifer” (as in his ex-love of 18 years, recently departed from his arms.) That made me rather sad. I’ve read that his reference to “Jen and Cora” referred to Miss Westfeldt and their pet dog. Still, the entire name might have been nice — at least “Jen” got top billing over the dog!

Brava to Frances McDormand, a well-deserved honor for “Olive Kitteridge” — she gave a courageous, magnificent performance, and a blessedly brief acceptance speech. (And bravo to her winning co-stars, Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray. This is a difficult movie, but so worthwhile!)

It was great to see child-actor Regina King, all grown up, and taking her first Emmy for “American Crime” … Peter Dinklage, the “Game of Thrones” genius winning again … Amy Schumer for “Inside Amy Schumer” … and HBO’s epic “Game of Thrones” finally received big respect.

Also amusing to watch Lady Gaga swan out in subtle black, and pronounce the nominees and winners in tones suitable for an old Greer Garson movie. I think she was just sort of camping it up. Or else she is secretly dating one of what’s left of society’s 400. (“And always the same 400!” as Marilyn, exclaimed in “Some Like It Hot,” trying to pass herself to off to Tony Curtis as a runaway debutante. He was trying to pass himself off as millionaire.)

But maybe I am simply getting too impatient nowadays to sit through the tired jokes and patter that clutter all awards ceremonies. Just give out the bloody statuettes or plaques or crystal paperweights and let us get to bed!


WITH the Emmy Awards still on all our lips, ears and minds, The Hollywood Reporter came out with its “100 Favorite TV Shows” list.

Some of the 100 I had to roll my eyes at — “Seinfeld,” “The Brady Bunch?” But we all live in our own heads and have our own particular or peculiar favorites.

Liz Smith: Carol Burnett, The Emmys, Favorite TV Shows, sopranos, the three tomatoesSo I’ll give you a few of mine — “Breaking Bad” showed us how good people can go really bad … “The Sopranos” showed us that bad people can be appealing … “House of Cards” tells us more than we want to believe about the cynicism and brutality of political life. (So does “Veep” but we laugh with that one.)

I adore the soap opera class wars of “Downton Abbey” (and the worldwide treasure that is Maggie Smith) … the nail-biting legal wars and wranglings of “The Good Wife.” (With two of my faves, Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski.)

Back in the day I loved single girl Mary Tyler Moore, and later, single woman Candice Bergen in “Murphy Brown.” (Moore wisely ended her show at its absolute peak, and Bergen finally took herself out of Emmy competition, to give others a break. Two great sitcoms, two remarkable ladies.)

I was vastly amused by the glamorous skullduggery of “Dynasty,” “Dallas,” “Falcon Crest” and “Knots Landing.” (All of which featured powerful, attractive women, past the first bloom of youth.) Currently I’m enjoying “Blue Bloods,” “Grace and Frankie” and yet another PBS British crime series, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

But perhaps my favorite TV memory is the first two seasons of “Moonlighting,” with Cybill Shepherd making a comeback, and Bruce Willis, making his initial impact in the world of show biz. Not long before, Willis had been a struggling actor, tending bar in New York. (At the time, I wrote that his “Moonlighting” character had a lot of Humphrey Bogart in its creation and performance.)

The pair didn’t always get along on-set, and that made their small-screen efforts even more compelling. And also kept gossip columns busy, writing about the “feud.”

And as for those of you who loved “Saved By The Bell” — I don’t judge!


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