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American Masters: Carol Burnett: A Woman Of Character

Airs Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: AMERICAN MASTERS pays tribute to the incomparable entertainer who transformed herself into a one-woman army of comedic characters: Carol Burnett.

America in the 1960s and 70s was in turmoil. The civil rights struggle, the war in Vietnam and the sexual revolution defined a nation in conflict. But at 10 o’clock every Saturday night, in dorms and dens, in living rooms and bedrooms across the country, Americans watched “The Carol Burnett Show.”

Courtesy of Randee St. Nicholas

AMERICAN MASTERS pays tribute to the incomparable entertainer who transformed herself into a one-woman army of comedic characters: Carol Burnett, shown tugging her ear, a gesture with which she ended each broadcast of "The Carol Burnett Show."

For 11 years, the wacky performer yelled like Tarzan and won — and sometimes broke — our hearts with her edgy, always sympathetic, characters.

She could fall down a flight of stairs or hold her own in a duet with Julie Andrews. Her antics, her creativity and her business smarts were groundbreaking, and inspired not only her TV contemporaries, but also generations of younger comediennes who followed her.

Yet, as with so many brilliant comedians, hers was a difficult childhood. A glimpse of something deeper and darker began to emerge in the dramatic career that followed her TV variety show.

“It’s hard to explain now the multilayered impact of Carol Burnett on America’s entertainment industry,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming for PBS.

“‘The Carol Burnett Show’ shaped how we spent our Saturday nights for the decade-plus that she reigned over television. Her work, her humor and her fearlessness also shaped the careers of so many entertainers who followed her. I’m very happy that, on the heels of her newest book launch, we can present a night dedicated to one of the true stand-outs in television comedy,” Hoppe added.

AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook. Past episodes of AMERICAN MASTERS are available for online viewing.

Video

Preview: American Masters: Carol Burnett: A Woman Of Character

Above: Salute the entertainer who was a one-woman army of comedic characters: Carol Burnett. To learn more about "Carol Burnett: A Woman Of Character," visit the AMERICAN MASTERS website.

Video

Time Life's: "The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection"

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