DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

All In The Family: The Complete Series (1968/2012)

Probably the most influential and important sit-com that has ever graced U.S. TV screens.

Published on December 6, 2012

All In The Family: The Complete Series (1968/2012)

All 208 original episodes plus 3-part 1979 retrospective & pilots
Cast: Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
Director: Norman Lear & others
Studio: CBS-TV/Sony Pictures/Shout Factory SF 13614 [10/30/12] – 28 DVDs, 9 seasons of 3 discs each, with 1 bonus disc
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: English PCM mono
Extras: New interview with Norman Lear, “The Birth of Those Were the Days,” “All in the Family” documentary, “The Television Revolution Begins: All In The Family is on the Air,” Original pilot: “Justice for All,” Second episode of series pilot, “Gloria” spin-off pilot episode, “Archie Bunker’s Place” pilot episode, “704 Hauser” 1994 spin-off, 40-page illustrated booklet with essays by TV critic Tom Shales and Media Professor Marty Kaplan
Length: 6300 minutes total
Rating: *****

Wow, what I missed by not watching this amazing series when it was on the air! Fans have been waiting awhile for this collection of every last episode from the highly influential sit-com’s nine-year run. The interviews with originator Norman Lear really explain how the series made such a big footprint in American popular culture and totally revolutionized what could and would be presented on TV.  The jokes were all over the place, but primarily centered on the resistant-to-change, bigoted Archie Bunker and his argumentative exchanges with everyone in his life on subjects such as race, politics, sex and all the foibles that made humans human. Not only the four main characters in the house: Archie, his saintly and confused wife Edith, their daughter Gloria and her new liberal husband Mike—but also everyone else on the series, were fully fleshed-out characters who dealt with the public concerns of the day—not cardboard figures set up for obvious corny humor like most other TV series of the time. Father hardly ever Knew Best in this household, though he really liked to think he did.

Lear explains how it took three years, two networks and several different pilot episodes to get All In The Family on the air. Lear also tells how many of the immortal Archie’s standard comments came from his very own father, such as “stifle!” and calling his son ”Meathead.” This was the first TV show that dealt with problems of blue-collar and American in general life. Some difficult subjects not before touched on TV became part of All In The Family, such as cancer, rape, miscarriage, substance abuse, job discrimination, marital fidelity, homophobia etc. The acting was absolutely tops; Lear mentions how new things would be suggested by the actors in rehearsal.  O’Connor especially liked to modify his lines, and he based his character on a cab driver he knew. Two different pairs of actors were tried out for the young couple before they settled on Struthers and Reiner, but there were never any doubts about O’Connor and Stapleton. Part of Lear’s genius was bringing the whole world into the little set of the interior of 704 Hauser Street each week. One got to know it like one’s own home.

Of course I hadn’t had the time to watch all 208 episodes, but of those I did I especially liked the one where Sammy Davis Jr. leaves his attache case behind in Archie’s taxi, and the three on Archie’s near-infidelity. Also the 200th Episode Celebration with Norman Lear. It’s quite amazing the quality level which most of the episodes maintained. The black family The Jeffersons lived next door, which brought up many great exchanges along racial lines, and eventually resulted in one of the many spin-offs from All In The Family. The two ABC pilots are provided in the extras in their entirety, before the series got going on CBS. Someone mentioned that the syndicated series which ran later on many TV stations had four or five minutes cut from the original episodes; however this complete series includes the entire episodes, minus of course the commercials.

—John Sunier




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