Carol Burnett To Star In New Sitcom: ‘I’d Always Wanted To Pay Her Back In Some Way,’ Says Writer

Jeffrey Totey

Carol Burnett, a legend when it comes to comedy, has never starred in a sitcom. She has made plenty of guest appearances over the years and hosted a variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, for 11 seasons, but never headlined a sitcom — until now.

Deadline reports that Burnett is in talks to do a multi-camera comedy for ABC with a commitment which guarantees that a pilot will be shot, a move that is only used for high-profile projects. The unnamed project will be written and produced by Michael Saltzman and executive produced by Amy Poehler. Saltzman has a history of multi-camera sitcoms, including Murphy Brown and The Naked Truth, before moving on to shows like Mad Men, Hell on Wheels, and Halt and Catch Fire. Working with Burnett will be dream for Saltzman.

Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence
Carol Burnett with Vicki Lawrence at the taping of the final Carol Burnett Show on March 17, 1978. (Image by George Brich/AP Images)

“I grew up — like millions of other people — watching The Carol Burnett Show, and idolizing Carol. It wasn’t just the hilarious parodies; her Q&As just showed her to be this warm, funny, relatable person,” says Saltzman. “And then the very first meeting I had when I was trying to break into television as a writer was with Carol, who was exactly the same person in real life as she was on TV. Through an incredible act of kindness and generosity, she gave me my start. In our meeting, Carol offered praise and gave encouragement, which by itself was amazing, but she then elevated things to a truly surreal level when she presented a check with no contract or conditions. Her only instruction was to write anything — a play, a musical, a TV show, a movie, a poem. It didn’t matter. She just wanted to give someone she believed in their start.”

As it turns out, Carol herself was a recipient of an anonymous benefactor who helped her get her start with a $1,000 check whose only request was that she pass on the kindness to another someday.

“I’d always wanted to pay her back in some way, and reward the faith she placed in me, but the stars never seemed to align,” Saltzman said. “When I was free she was busy and vice versa … She’s not only one of the most brilliant and beloved comediennes to ever appear on television, she’s also a very gifted dramatic actress. So, my goal is to hopefully give her material that will allow her to showcase all her talents and range, and, just as importantly, to create an environment she’ll enjoy and have fun creating and playing in, like she had on her original show.”

Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have similar feelings for Carol Burnett. The two presented Carol with the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year and they both spoke about how much the comedian meant to them both.


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“We watched Carol with our moms, and our moms taught us 90 percent of what we needed to know to be the kind of women that we are today, and the other 10 percent is Carol,” Poehler said. “We love her and we thank her.”

The proposed storyline involves a family who receives an offer that they cannot refuse – the chance to live in the house of their dreams but with one concession: the current owner, an older actress, continues to live there as well until she dies.

[Featured Image by Vince Bucci/AP Images]