Carol Burnett is back hosting a television show, 40 years after “The Carol Burnett Show” wrapped its monumental 11-year run on CBS.
“A Little Help with Carol Burnett,” premiering May 4 on Netflix, features Burnett interacting with children ages 4-8, who give advice on everyday problems encountered by adults (think the old Art Linkletter series, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”). Burnett is joined on the 12-episode series, filmed before a live studio audience, by comedian Russell Peters and one celebrity guest each episode, including “Stranger Things” star Finn Wolfhard, Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”), Wanda Sykes and DJ Khaled.
Burnett, 85, spoke to The Post about her new series.
What gets Carol Burnett back to TV?
I love kids, especially that age range. They don’t censor themselves … and everything that comes out of their mouths is the truth, and that appealed to me. That, and the fact that it was very easy to do — there’s no script, it’s all improvisation, and we did the whole thing in two weeks. What’s not to like about it? These kids are adorable. We had a pool of about 15 kids and over 12 shows we would mix and match, so the panel wasn’t always the same five kids each time. I remember when we were auditioning the kids — they’re real kids, not professional actors — and one of the kids’ answers was, “You have to go with your heart.” This was from a 6-year-old. It was just so adorable.
We did a trailer with a little boy, Caleb. He taught me the term “Stay woke,” which I’d never heard before. I didn’t know what he was talking about. We brought him back to do another little trailer and I said to him, “I’m staying ‘woke’ ” and he said, “Oh, that’s old.” I just learned it and I can’t use it anymore!
Are you amazed when you look back at how TV has evolved?
I am, because in the “covered wagon” days there were three channels. We would have 30 million people a week watching [“The Carol Burnett Show”] and today 10 million a week is a lot. It’s great for me, too, because [“The Carol Burnett Show”] is on YouTube and Time-Life put out a bunch of DVDs. I go out on the road and do 90 minutes of Q&A and I’m getting audiences ranging in age from like 9 to 90. I think [“A Little Help”] is a cute show, especially for kids to watch with their parents or grandparents. It’s nothing too heavy and it’s certainly not edgy.
What happened to the ABC comedy pilot you starred in that wasn’t picked up?
The pilot was very funny and the audience and everyone seemed to think “whee!” Then the network wanted to recast a couple of main parts … and wanted [writer/executive producer] Michael Saltzman to add extra stuff they thought was funny — more of the family stuff and less of the oddball situation we were in. Michael did his best and I read [the rewrite] and said, “Michael, it’s not your fault. The original pilot was better, more fun … I don’t want to do it.” Again, back in the “covered wagon” days, when we did my show, CBS left us alone. They never even asked to see a script. [CBS founder] Mr. Paley always said, “Here’s the show, go do it. You’re the artist, go have fun and if it works and gets ratings we’ll renew you.” So with [the pilot] I thought, I had it so good that, at this time of my life, do I want to face a bunch of network or advertising people who want to make their opinions known? I just don’t want to be around that.
“A Little Help with Carol Burnett” Series premiere Friday on Netflix
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