TV REVIEW : BURNETT AND NEW FACES, OLD FORMAT

Times Staff Writer

Carol Burnett's variety special on ABC tonight (10 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) plays exactly like her old variety series on CBS.

That's not a bad thing, but it isn't a very good thing, either. What might have passed as a mildly entertaining hour in the context of a weekly series is not as easily accepted in a one-time-only outing--especially when the guests include comedy hotshots Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.

Burnett says at the outset that the show is being taped with the same crew and in the same studio where she starred in "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967 to 1978. With one of the same scripts, too, it seems.

A comedy sketch at a funeral, a Shakespeare parody, a Burnett-Goldberg duet about friendship that's preceded by some shallow show-biz patter--there's nothing in "A Carol Burnett Special . . . Carol, Carl, Whoopi & Robin" that differentiates the 1987 program from one Burnett and Co. might have done in 1977.

That includes the cast. Substitute Tim Conway for Williams, Vicki Lawrence for Goldberg and Harvey Korman for Carl Reiner and the show wouldn't be any different.

When TV gets that homogenized, you have to shudder.

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