In this special, an adaptation of George Furth's 1971 Broadway comedy, Carol Burnett, supported by an exceptional cast of male co-stars, portrays four characters -- three middle-aged sisters and their crotchety mother. Each act focuses on a different woman in the family and the men in her life. The characters portrayed by Burnett include a lonely widow, a frustrated housewife, half a happy couple celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and the acerbic mother of these women who is planning her own wedding. In Act One, widowed Emily is surprised by a visit from Frank (Alex Rocco), the owner of a moving company who returns to her a misplaced box from her recent move. Clearly lonely, Emily asks him in for a drink of water. Full of nervous energy, she compulsively unpacks and decorates the bare apartment as they speak -- uncrating and installing even major appliances -- much to Frank's concern and amazement. Frank urges her to relax and accept his help moving a refrigerator. She later reveals that she and her husband suffered the loss of their young daughter eight years earlier; and Frank confides that his marriage ended in divorce because he neglected his wife while building his business. Emily is caught off guard when he asks her to spend Thanksgiving with him. In the second act, the tensions of Celia's unhappy marriage to Phil (Edward Asner) come to a head when Phil's hapless Army buddy Swede (Conrad Bain) arrives for a Thanksgiving visit. Celia -- desperate for attention and human contact -- embarrasses Phil by continually interrupting the beer-fueled reminiscences of the two men to talk about her life. In comments laced with subtle sarcasm, she recalls her aspirations as an actress, her dislike of army-base life, her two nervous breakdowns, and some revelations about Phil from her therapy. A pathetic scene ensues when Celia begins to perform a song-and-dance routine for an uncomfortable-looking Swede, and Phil finally explodes in rage. In the third act, comfortably middle-class Dorothy and Lou (Pat Hingle) appear to share a marriage of equals: they know how to make each other laugh as well as how to keep the other just a little off-balance. These gifts come in handy on their twenty-fifth anniversary, when they are visited by Lou's nearly deaf brother-in-law (Jack Gilford), and the couple end up revealing to each other that they've had extramarital affairs -- and then retracting this information. In the final act, elderly Ma -- who is in failing health but still quite strong-willed and sharp tongued -- insists that the reluctant Pa (Liam Dunn) marry her in a Catholic ceremony at long last, so her own mother will finally rest in peace. The old couple banter back and forth in a familiar routine, and Ma is exasperated by the constant concerned phone calls of their three daughters Emily, Celia, and Dorothy. A young priest (Gary Burghoff) arrives to marry the couple and Ma is shocked to discover that Pa's legal name is Oscar, not George. Though Ma has an attack, collapses, and appears near death, she insists that the nervous young priest speed up the ceremony and skip to important part. Afterwards, Ma regains her strength, and discussing their daughters, Pa says to her, "As the tree is bent, so grow the twigs." (Derived from Alexander Pope's "Moral Essays I" -- "'Tis education forms the common mind: Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined.") Includes commercials and promos.


  • DATE: March 6, 1975 Thursday 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:26:21
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:13305
  • GENRE: Comedy
  • SERIES RUN: CBS - TV, 1975
  • COMMERCIALS: TV - Commercials - RC (Royal Crown) cola^TV - Commercials - Datsun automobiles^TV - Commercials - Campbell's soup^TV - Commercials - Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme automobiles^TV - Commercials - Mazola No Stick cooking oil spray^TV - Commercials - Libby's juices^TV - Commercials - Norelco VIP electric razors^TV - Commercials - Midas mufflers^TV - Commercials - Post Raisin Bran cereal^TV - Commercials - Sealy Posturepedic matresses^TV - Commercials - Polaroid cameras^TV - Commercials - Arm & Hammer baking soda^TV - Commercials - Smith-Corona typewriters^TV - Commercials - Stayfree mini-pads^TV - Commercials - Armstrong carpet "tile"^TV - Commercials - Manischewitz wine^TV - Commercials - Firestone tires^TV - Commercials - Lavoris mouthwash^TV - Commercials - Vicks NyQuil cold medicine^TV - Promos - "We'll Get By"


    • Joe Hamilton … Producer
    • Robert Wright … Associate Producer
    • George Furth … Writer
    • Alan Arkin … Director
    • Clark Jones … Director
    • Peter Matz … Music by
    • Carol Burnett … Cast, Emily, Celia, Dorothy, and Ma
    • Alex Rocco … Cast, Frank
    • Edward Asner … Cast, Phil
    • Conrad Bain … Cast, Swede
    • Pat Hingle … Cast, Lou
    • Jack Gilford … Cast, Ned
    • Liam Dunn … Cast, Pa
    • Gary Burghoff … Cast, the Priest