Carol Burnett Wins a Hefty Audience

Thursday, November 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Carol Burnett always ended her show by singing ``I'm so glad we had this time together,'' and now CBS is glad it put Burnett back together with her former co-stars.

``The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers'' drew almost 30 million viewers Monday night, one of the biggest tune-ins this season.

``We expected it to do well,'' CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Wednesday, ``but we were very, very pleasantly surprised by how well it did.''

The retrospective featured vintage outtakes as well as newly taped reminiscences by Burnett, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence. The original comedy-variety series ran on CBS from 1967 to '78, when such shows were becoming extinct.

``It was a return to good, old-fashioned comedy,'' said Moonves. ``It was like welcoming old friends back into your house.''

That welcome was extended even by younger viewers, which the Burnett special also won in its time slot. It scored a robust 23 percent share of the 18-to-49-year-old audience.

``Our biggest surprise was the 18-to-49 number,'' Moonves said. ``We were very pleased by how they reacted, that they knew about the show, that they grew up watching the show in syndication.''

The Burnett show ranks as TV's fourth-biggest audience-grabber so far this season, behind only the broadcast of the World Series' seventh game and two episodes of NBC's ``Friends.''

Even the competition was caught off-guard by Burnett's success.

``Everyone at every network is probably searching through his vault right now and we're doing that, too,'' NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said.

``It does speak to the power of nostalgia at the moment,'' said Stuart Bloomberg, ABC entertainment co-chairman.

Thanks in part to the Burnett special, CBS is expected to win the November prime-time ``sweeps,'' ratings which are used to set local advertising rates.

That would lengthen CBS' streak to three after the February and May sweeps, and it's the first time CBS has won three consecutive sweeps since the 1983-84 season, Moonves said.

Also contributing to CBS' November showing besides Burnett was the ``I Love Lucy'' golden anniversary special, more ``comfort-food'' fare that attracted nearly 18 million viewers Nov. 11.

Then, two nights later, CBS aired a Michael Jackson concert special, which drew a remarkably large audience of nearly 26 million viewers.