Carol Burnett: It's Her Season She Follows Up Her `Specials' Special with Drama of the Heart

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AMONG her other titles, Carol Burnett might be called "Queen of the Sweeps," having been awarded two specials on two separate networks during the mad May scramble for ratings.

Last Friday, CBS offered "Carol Burnett: The Special Years," drawing from her nine musical specials featuring Julie Andrews, Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Dolly Parton and Whoopi Goldberg.

And this Sunday, "Seasons of the Heart," a drama about a woman's relationship with her daughter and grandson, airs on NBC (8 p.m. on Channel 5). The movie co-stars George Segal and Malcolm McDowell and was directed by Lee Grant.

Burnett talked about television and her personal life one sunny morning at her villa in a luxury enclave tucked amid the towers of Hollywood's Century City. Ever disciplined in mind and body, she seemed lean and fit enough to run a marathon.

In "Seasons of the Heart," Burnett plays a humorless woman who manages a publishing career and affairs with two men during a 25-year marriage to another man, now deceased. She doesn't fare so well at motherhood; her daughter is a listless addict who dumps her son with his grandmother and disappears.

"The show appealed to me for three reasons," she said. "One, I thought it was an intelligent script and, with the dialogue and all, it wasn't right on the head. People would say things, but there was a subtext to what they really meant.

"Two, it wasn't a `Woman in Jeopardy' or `Disease of the Week.' Three, it was Lee Grant. I'm a big fan of her work in front of and behind the camera."

In one way, the script mirrored Burnett's own life. Her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, fell victim to drugs while in school. In her case, there has been a happy ending.

"Carrie is 13 years sober," her mother said proudly. "She's going on 30, and she's like another person. Conjuring up those feelings was interesting, because I know so much more now about that disease than I did when we were going through it.

"I had buried my head in the sand, and I as a mom was in denial. It took me a while when it was happening, all those years ago, to get the kind of `tough-love' situation going. …