Carroll O'Connor and Carol Burnett were a couple on this '90s sitcom

They played Helen Hunt's parents.

Looking back on them now, the '90s seem like the halcyon days of television. There was so much to love. It was a boom period for comedy, with shows like Frasier, Seinfeld, and Friends packing in enormous audiences, pushing their networks ahead in the ratings wars. Late-night programming was rife with competition, with Letterman, Leno, and Hall squaring off for the evening chat show king title. 

One of the best parts of '90s TV was that it wasn't too far off from TV's '60s and '70s heydays. Lots of stars from the past were still with us and able to drop in for guest roles on prime-time shows. We were far enough removed from their series that these stars of yesteryear were genuinely missed. What a thrill it was, then, to see someone like Dick Van Dyke or Florence Henderson walk out onto a '90s sitcom set to rapturous applause.

A great example was Mad About You, a show that consistently paid tribute to the giants who came before. For instance, the show featured the return of Carl Reiner, who, 30 years later, was once again Alan Brady from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner reprised the role on Mad About You and won an Emmy for his efforts. It wasn't some lip service tribute; the episode, "The Alan Brady Show" focused entirely on Reiner and his old role. Shortly after that, Mel Brooks was on the show and seemed like a shoo-in for an Emmy nomination as well.

Then, in '96, Mad About You scored a major coup for any fan of classic TV. The show introduced the parents of Helen Hunt's character Jamie in an episode that aired on November 12th, 1996.  

First, Carol Burnett — playing the mother of Helen Hunt's Jamie — walks through the door to a huge cheer from the crowd. Then, moments later, Carroll O'Connor enters, playing Jamie's father. The crowd's reaction was just as big for O'Connor.

This particular episode was the show's 100th, and the producers did everything they could to ensure it was a memorable event. Both veteran actors were terrific in their roles, transitioning deftly from whatever projects they'd most recently been a part of. O'Connor had, of course, spent years in the dramatic world of In the Heat of the Night, but effortlessly returned to the sitcom format he ruled as Archie on All in The Family. Burnett, too, was at her best here in front of the studio audience, once again shining bright the way she did on her own Carol Burnett Show

It was a great episode that featured an astounding amount of comic talent stuffed into a small space. Network TV just hasn't been the same since. 

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2 Comments

Jerryfan 29 days ago
I loved them on Mad About You.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
That really does sound like an AMAZING episode! (-:
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