Home Television Carol Burnett Special Scores Huge Ratings for Wrong Network: Why Was It...

The 90th birthday Carol Burnett special scored huge ratings Wednesday night. The show pulled in 7.6 million viewers and was number 1 across all broadcast networks.

But insiders are wondering why it wasn’t on CBS, Carol’s home for two decades, and on NBC instead?

The word is CBS passed on the special even though Carol was one of the superstars of the 60s and 70s who made them into the Tiffany Network. Even with all the A listers on the show, like Cher and Julie Andrews, the 90th birthday didn’t appeal to them.

Instead, Burnett — who owns her famous CBS show and all its clips — turned to NBC. They went for it without thinking twice, and their decision paid off handsomely.

Burnett is ageless, even at 90, and has gotten hipper over the years. Her old shows play every night on the MeTV Channel and have found a whole new audience.

In CBS’s defense, I will say the special was not well produced. It had a cheap look to it, and wasn’t well written. But fans didn’t care. A lot of the ratings success came from excellent marketing and word of mouth. What CBS didn’t understand is that Burnett represents a much needed nostalgia for calmer times— even though when the show aired, we had Watergate and Vietnam. But people weren’t vicious the way they are now.

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