Comedy icon is joined by children on new Netflix series
One of television’s comedy icons is kidding around in a different, and literal, way now.
Premiering Friday, May 4, the Netflix series “A Little Help With Carol Burnett” teams the ever-popular, much-honored star with youngsters who offer advice to celebrities – including Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban, Wanda Sykes, Lisa Kudrow and music’s DJ Khaled – and everyday people on various subjects. If the premise seems to channel such classic shows as “House Party” and “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” the ever-friendly Burnett doesn’t dispute that.
She credits her manager, Steve Sauer, with remembering such series in suggesting “A Little Help”: “We were talking about the fact that out of the mouths of babes comes the truth. From the ages of 4 to 9, I would say, they’re not censoring themselves yet so we thought, ‘What would happen if adults brought their personal dilemmas to this panel of five kids and asked for their advice?’ ”
From a pool of 15 children, five participate in each episode. “They were just adorable,” Burnett says. “It was all ad-libbed. We wanted real kids, not actors – not that kid actors aren’t real. One woman came in and was going to be married to a gentleman who was raising his two very young children, and she wanted to know how she could get the kids to like her and not think of her as an evil stepmother. And one of our kids raised his hand and said, ‘Well, bribery always works!’ And another said, ‘You just have to go with your heart,’ which is pretty adult.”
The big ratings for Burnett’s December CBS special marking her classic comedy-variety series’ 50th anniversary came as “such a wonderful surprise and gift,” the star says. “I was stunned.” Though she notes an ABC pilot she made is now “dead in the water,” much remains on Burnett’s plate, including more touring with her one-woman stage show and new digital distribution of original “Carol Burnett Show” episodes.
While she’s happy with the Netflix deal that sees all 12 episodes of “A Little Help” debut at once (as with her close “chum” Julie Andrews’ program “Julie’s Greenroom” last year), Burnett — who soon will receive the Peabody Awards’ first-ever honor for career achievement — admits she misses making television the way it used to be done, “with only one boss.
“People like Carl Reiner with ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ and Norman Lear with ‘All in the Family,’ they knew what they were doing. And (the network) left us alone, too. I remember there always used to be a CBS person around, and our head writer once said, ‘His main job is to warn us when there’s an iceberg coming down (Los Angeles’) Fairfax Avenue.’ He never said a word.”