Carol Burnett’s defining appearance in the final episodes of “Better Call Saul” is a reminder of the remarkable career the talented artist has had on the small screen.
Yes, Burnett did movies and appeared in theaters before and after her television success.
Television is where she shined. His technique is oriented towards the intimacy and detail of the medium. Somehow, even counting stellar performances in “The Four Seasons” and “Pete ‘N’ Tillie” movies among others, Burnett didn’t register as much of a big-screen resonance as he did. her when she walked into people’s homes on television.
It was there that she was fearless and able to make laughs and break hearts according to the occasion.
“The Carol Burnett Show” would earn my vote for best variety show in television history, even among programs directed by Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams, and Dean Martin.
The closest would have been “The Garry Moore Show,” which Burnett cut his teeth on TV as a regular before hitting his own schedule.
For me, the secret to Burnett’s success, beyond the natural warmth she exudes, is her indifference to her appearance in the scene. Dress her in a dress, dress her in rags, make her up to look as glamorous as possible, or smear her face in spots and wrap her hair in a babushka, and she’d make the scene work .
Many stars would have balked at doing costume pieces in which they didn’t look their best, or even wearing make-up and wigs that made them look weird, but Burnett never seemed to worry about such things. She was aiming for laughter or pathos. She trusted her material, and that trust paid off for her and her audience.
In “Better Call Saul,” a series that bids viewers farewell Monday night in terms of new episodes, Burnett stayed true to form.
At 89, she was cast by “Saul” creator Vince Gilligan to play the dull aunt, Marian, of a taxi driver who recognizes Saul by his current alias of Gene, a Cinnabon employee in Omaha. Gilligan knew from the actress herself that “Better Call Saul” was one of her favorite TV shows.
As usual, Burnett wasn’t worried about doing a “star trick” or standing out in any way other than what comes from quality play. She accepted her supporting role and played it brilliantly.
In tonight’s finale, that role becomes as prominent as any guest appearance in the “Better Call Saul” or “Breaking Bad” canon.
Whether it’s Jimmy, Saul or Gene, the main character of “Better Call Saul” has been able to charm the elderly. He develops his only legitimate practice of law by looking after the needs of seniors. He mounts a compelling class action lawsuit against a large nursing home company that robs its residents by overcharging them for allegedly provided items such as groceries and toilet paper.
The elderly and vulnerable are Saul’s most enthusiastic customers, even more so than the drug dealer he portrays in “Breaking Bad.” Marianne is different. She is initially in love with Saul, or Gene as he is known when she meets him in a timeline that comes after the conclusion of “Breaking Bad”.
Later, she grows suspicious of him. She wonders if he is leading her nephew into serious criminal behavior. She does research to see who Gene really is. What she learns scares her, and in the midst of “Better Call Saul’s” sell-out, she does what no one has bothered to do or been bullied into doing, and lets the authorities know looking for it. of Saul where he is.
Burnett fits perfectly into a fitting ending for the “Saul”/”Breaking Bad” series. Her actions as Marian add another memorable credit to her outstanding career.
The great thing about Carol Burnett is that she addresses her seemingly disposable but ultimately pivotal role as an actress, not a star. Once again, she accepts the pitfalls of her character and is willing to dress up and play an ordinary old lady instead of emphasizing Marian’s glamor or sophistication.
Again, it’s his ability to connect to the television camera and check in with the small screen that makes his appearances a lasting integral part of “Better Call Saul” rather than a star showcase.
The way Burnett looks at Gene at one point lets you see the fear in his expression and that expression makes you fear and care for Marian. Burnett doesn’t lean on celebrity tricks or take her screen presence for granted, she delivers a well-rounded and faceted performance that makes you sympathize with Marian even though it’s clear she’s going to eliminate a main character you’ve enjoyed watching emerge from scrapes and avoid his righteous deserts over the decade “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” elevated television to its highest levels.
Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler had a similar effect when she burst into tears in last week’s penultimate episode.
Vince Gilligan said that as “Breaking Bad” ended, he believed in retribution through justice for wrongdoers his audience had faithfully watched and supported. It seemed logical to me that he would take the same approach with Jimmy/Saul/Gene, who has a few good works under his belt but was mostly a conniving finagler who more often than not used his prodigious verbal skills and legal expertise to leave chaos, the chaos, and the crime continues.
Kim begs Gene to turn into the authorities and sets an example. Marian makes it impossible for Saul to be Slippin’ Jimmy once more and run away. Gilligan, in the end, puts Saul in a position to meet his due.
If all goes the way I see it, “Better Call Saul” will have a fitting and fitting ending that will add to an enduring rating as one of the best series in television history.
Ardmore’s Pasek Brings “Evan Hansen” Home
Only twice in daytime Emmy history has the award for “Best Musical Performance in a Daytime Talk Show” been given to the cast of a Broadway musical.
One of those actors was the original “Dear Evan Hansen” company, who received the accolade for their performance of the song “You Will Be Found” on NBC’s “Today Show” in 2017, the year the show also won a Tony for Best Musical.
One of the authors of “You Will Be Found” and the entire score of “Dear Evan Hansen” is Benj Pasek, who grew up in Ardmore, a coincidence that adds some significance to the show which will make its first appearance in the area. Pasek’s original film tomorrow at Forrest Theater in Philadelphia, where it will run for two weeks.
Pasek and his songwriting partner, Justin Paul, wrote songs for television around the time their music first began to be heard in theaters. In 2007, they wrote songs for six episodes of “Johnny and the Sprites” for Disney Channel. They also contributed tracks for the second season of NBC’s “Smash,” with some of their tracks doing well on the iTunes charts after being heard on television.
Another original song, “Runnin’ Home to You”, was sung on both “Flash” and “Supergirl”.
Pasek and Paul had a particularly good year in 2017, when Tony’s “Dear Evan Hansen” win was preceded by the team winning an Oscar with composer Justin Hurvitz for their lyrics to “La La Land” “City of stars”. They then received a Golden Globe for their song “This Is Me” from the movie “The Greatest Showman”.
Too much parmesan for Lapidus on AGT
Simon Cowell was right about Ben Lapidus of Doylestown auditioning for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with an original song about his love for Parmesan cheese and his insistence that servers fill his plate with it.
It’s a short-lived song, a one-note samba so to speak. Except for one catchy repeated phrase — I always want more parmesan, but I’m embarrassed” — “AGT” judge Heidi Klum said she was going to be America’s biggest earworm the next day , the song is going nowhere. (Although I’m singing the lines now…and I’m embarrassed.)
That didn’t stop him from gaining fan support. Lapidus is a fiery and insistent performer, and he had the “AGT” audience on their feet as they sang with the phrase quoted above.
The result is that during the auditions, Lapidus received four “no” votes from the judges. Klum included, which would normally be the death knell for new appearances, but that wasn’t the case this time around.
Viewers enjoyed Lapidus’ parmesan song so much that they voted him into the live contest despite the judges’ unanimous rejection.
Much to Cowell’s chagrin and much to the delight of the audience, Lapidus returned to “AGT” last Monday to compete for one of 10 finalist spots.
Cowell seemed smitten when Lapidus took the stage, but the singer promised to show off another side of his songwriting. Stepping out in a button-up blue chambray shirt and looking rather nerdy with a guitar slung across the front, he began a mournful melody about a guy disappointed in life.
After four bars, he stopped in an apparent panic as if he had forgotten the words of his composition or had suddenly had stage fright.
It was a trick. He stripped off his nerd outfit, appeared shirtless in a vest and leather pants, and launched into the Parmesan cheese song.
Same number, same result.
Well, sort of.
As Lapidus emerged as the Parmesan Guy, Cowell immediately pressed his button, quickly followed by judges Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara.
Doom finally seemed likely for Lapidus. Only Heidi Klum abstained from voting “No”.
Meanwhile, the audience once again sang with Lapidus and applauded him at the end of his rant.
This time, the three “No” votes had their effect. (Thank God!). In the vote overnight, fans did not vote in sufficient numbers to give Lapidus another chance to scare Cowell. In a ballot that eliminated nine of eleven competing acts, viewers supported Cowell, Mandel and Vergara’s motion and voted Lapidus out of “AGT”.
Neal Zoren’s TV column appears every Monday.