Carol Burnett shrugged off bad ratings on The Carol Burnett Show

Image credit: The Everett Collection

When The Carol Burnett Show premiered in 1967, the main competition for the series included I Spy (1965) and The Big Valley (1965). After year one, The Carol Burnett Show proved it was a comedy force to be reckoned with.

But after 12 long and successful years on-air, the series celebrated the final curtain call while both I Spy and The Big Valley lapsed into syndication long before.

The Carol Burnett Show had something special. Between Burnett, Conway and the variety of dancers, singers and comedians who stopped by, the series outlasted and outperformed almost all of the other shows it started on television with. 

Despite all of her fans and accolades, Burnett and her variety program didn't always have it so easy. In the beginning, the show fell victim to critics and scathing reviews in articles across the country.

Of course, no comedy variety program at the time had ever lasted as long as The Carol Burnett Show. Part of the reason for her success was because Burnett would simply shrug it off and keep going. She didn't let the critics or ratings get her down — and it showed.

According to a 1978 interview with The Toronto Star, more trouble with The Carol Burnett Show began in 1978. The series sank to an all-time low in the ratings and landed 58th among other network shows in the 1977-1978 season.

CBS had shifted the show to Sunday night from Saturday where it joined the comedy block of All in the Family and Alice — two incredibly funny and difficult series to compete with — especially with a variety show.

Despite the time shift, Burnett said she was pleased with how the network treated her and her castmates, but the low ratings were another story. 

"Am I disappointed in this season's ratings?" Burnett began. "Disappointment implies high expectations, and that I didn't have. When I heard about The Love Boat, I said 'This will be a hit.' I've heard that before the season started they ran tests on Love Boat against detective shows and other kinds of programs. The Love Boat always scored first."

Burnett said Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days worked in the same way. Each series captured the attention of young viewers who helped keep the shows ranked among the top. Although Burnett had quite a few young fans, nothing could float on top with The Love Boat.

With questionable ratings during season 10, the question remained: How long could The Carol Burnett Show keep going?

"The only thing I would miss is working with the people here at CBS," Burnett said. "Over the years we've seen marriages, births, divorces and deaths; it had been really a family. But I won't fight it when the time comes to go. Throughout my career I've found that when decisions are forced on me, they're always right."