Carol Burnett and the Savvy Contract that Led to 'The Carol Burnett Show'

PHOTO: A promotional studio portrait of the cast of the television comedy variety series, "The Carol Burnett Show." Clockwise from top, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett and Tim Conway, circa 1975.PlayCBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
WATCH Carol Burnett and the Savvy Contract that Led to The Carol Burnett Show

Carol Burnett is arguably one of the funniest women to ever grace the stage and screen. Now after years of bringing the laughs, the legendary actress is returning to the spotlight.

For the first time, Burnett is releasing shows from the first five years of her variety series never before seen on DVD or YouTube. The newly released series is called "The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes.”

Burnett told ABC News it was the series that almost didn’t happen, but for a unique clause in her contract.

“It was a very wonderful, weird contract that the agent worked out," Burnett said. "When I was signed by CBS to do a 10-year contract, they wanted me to do one special a year and two guest shots on any of their series. But there was a caveat within the first 5-years, that if I wanted to do a variety show, a one-hour variety show, all I had to do was push the button and they would have to put it on for 30 one-hour pay or play shows.”

Burnett, 82, told Peter Travers, with only 5-days left in her contract, between Christmas and the New Year, she called an executive at the network and told him she wanted to push the button.

PHOTO: Carol Burnett, left, and Peter Travers, right, are pictured. David H. Miller/ABC
Carol Burnett, left, and Peter Travers, right, are pictured.

“And he said huh, what button?” Burnett recalled. “They totally had forgotten that clause. And he said, Oh, oh, I’ll get back to you,” she added. “I’m sure they got a lot of lawyers out of Christmas parties that night. And they had to put us on the air.”

After the success of her variety series, Burnett went on to star in a long list of TV shows and films. Who could forget her portrayal of the cruel Miss Hannigan in the 1982 flick “Annie” or her role as Mollie Malloy in the 1974 film “Front Page?”

“I was so awful,” Burnett said of her role as Mollie. “And the reviews reflected my opinion of myself. I didn’t want to see the movie. I knew I was just terrible in it so I never wanted to see it.”

Burnett said she was also certain movie-goers would recognize it wasn’t her best work. And she didn’t watch it until she was on a plane and the film was shown to passengers. That’s when she asked a flight attendant to allow her to speak to everyone who had just watched it with her.

“I said good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this is Carol Burnett. I just happen to be on this flight today. And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of you for my performance in that film. And they screamed (and applauded). I felt cleansed. I got to apologize.”