Carol Burnett’s return to prime-time TV took a major step forward Thursday when ABC ordered a pilot for the series Amy Poehler has been developing for her. While a pilot order doesn’t necessarily mean a series order, that may now be a mere formality with these two names attached.
There is another key name here, too: Veteran TV producer Michael Saltzman (“Murphy Brown”) who wrote the pilot script for the proposed series, “Household Name.” He got his start in the business in 1991 with “Wings” — coincidentally, the same year Burnett last starred in her own prime-time series.
Here are the details, according to Deadline, which first reported ABC’s initial interest in October: It’s about a family that buys “the house of their dreams” with one major hitch — the house comes with a former and now very eccentric star who must live there as well, until death do they part.
No word on whether Poehler will star as well.
As the website reported in October, Saltzman has a personal stake in this because when he was a neophyte writer just starting out in TV, Burnett “offered praise and 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,” Saltzman told Deadline at the time. “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.”
Burnett has hardly been invisible on TV since her long and iconic run on “The Carol Burnett Show” ended in 1978. Her variety show, “Carol & Company,” lasted a season back in ’91, but the calls kept coming: “Mad About You,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “All in the Family,” “Glee” (Sue Sylvester’s mom), “Hot in Cleveland,” and “Hawaii Five-O” each offered some of the more visible roles.
Meanwhile, the stage remained one of her favorite venues (a revival of “Love Letters,” for example), while she begins a short comedy/stand-up tour in March. That’s set to coincide with the launch of Julie Andrews’ Netflix series for preschoolers called “Julie’s Greenroom.” Burnett has a starring role on that as well.
Burnett back on TV would be remarkable for all sorts of reasons, and — apologies — you can’t ignore the obvious one: She turns 84 in April. The broadcast networks of course are notorious ageists, much more so in recent years, as they scrap for that increasingly elusive young adult demo. Millennials? They’ve pretty much given up on them.
There are still a number of actors from that other golden age of television who continue to grace the stage or small screen — Cicely Tyson, Cloris Leachman, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, William Shatner, Betty White, Nichelle Nichols, Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda and Della Reese, to name a few.
None will likely be starring in their own prime-time series this fall.
Will the great Carol Burnett? Odds are now looking good.