Debuting as a mid-season replacement series on January 12, 1971, All in the Family became one of the most influential comedies in TV history and made an immediate impact on the entire television industry. The sitcom revolves around blue-collar worker Archie Bunker (played by the beloved Carroll O’Connor) and his family. A bigot, Archie makes no bones about his racial and political views. His wife Edith, who he refers to as Dingbat, is ditzy, but her sweetness and good heart provide a perfect balance for the harsh character of Archie. Also residing in the Bunker house is Archie’s daughter Gloria and her husband Michael. Some of the greatest commentary and comedic moments come from the verbal sparring between the narrow-minded Archie and the thoughtful, liberal Meathead.
In this collection, you’ll be getting the following episodes:
1. “Meet The Bunkers”- It’s Archie and Edith’s wedding anniversary, so Gloria and Mike try to whip up a party atmosphere for them.
2. “Writing the President”- Upon learning that Mike has written a letter of criticism to President Nixon, Archie becomes so upset that he writes a letter of his own in praise of Nixon.
3. “Oh, My Aching Back”- Archie tries to sue for whiplash after a minor auto accident and seeks out a Jewish lawyer to fight the case for him.
4. “Archie Gives Blood”- Archie becomes a blood donor, but he insists on knowing who the blood will be going to because his theory is “black blood” is different from “white blood.”
5. “Judging Books By Covers”- Archie ridicules one of Mike and Gloria’s friends for being gay.
6. “Gloria’s Pregnancy”- Archie goes through the ceiling when he finds out that Gloria is going to have a baby and Mike has no means of supporting the child.
7. “Mike’s Hippie Friends Come To Visit”- Mike invites a young couple to spend the night at the Bunker house, but runs into objections when Archie finds out the visitors are not married.
8. “Lionel Moves Into The Neighborhood”- Archie tries to prevent a black family from moving into his neighborhood. The family turns out to be the Bunkers’ friend Lionel Jefferson and his parents.
9. “Edith Has Jury Duty”- Over Archie’s objection, Edith accepts a call to serve on a jury hearing a murder case which may keep her away from home for weeks.
10. “Archie Is Worried About His Job”- Archie spends a sleepless night worrying because he thinks he’s about to lose his job.
11. “Gloria Discovers Women’s Lib”- Gloria discovers Women’s Lib and winds up moving out of the Bunker household after an argument with Mike during which she demands that he treat her as an equal.
12. “Success Story”- After Eddie Frazier, a wealthy friend of Archie’s, arrives from Beverly Hills, Archie organizes a reunion of their old army buddies.
13. “The First And Last Supper”- At the same time that Archie is circulating a petition to keep more black families from moving into the neighborhood, Edith accepts an invitation to have dinner with the Jeffersons. So, Archie tries to get out of the engagement by claiming Edith has sprained her ankle.
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When “All in the Family” premiered on CBS on January 12, 1971, “TV Guide” introduced it as “A Lighthearted Look at Prejudice,” warning viewers “Situation comedy takes a giant step with this adult social satire.” In retrospect, even that declaration is an incredible understatement. Other than the “Texaco Star Theater,” which made Milton Berle “Mr. Television” and sold millions of television sets, there is not another show in the history of television as significant as “All in the Family.” Before its abbreviated first season there were “idiot” situation comedies like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” and “My Mother the Car.” After “All in the Family” came relevant shows like “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” and “M*A*S*H” and nobody doubts that it was AITF that changed the rules of the game.
Produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, “All in the Family” was based on the British series “Till Death Do Us Part.” The family in question were the Bunkers, which consisted of bigoted Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), his kindly “dingbat” wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), their naively idealistic daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers), and her husband, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), an argumentative liberal “meathead” who sorely tries Archie’s deeply conservative soul. Archie Bunker was unlike anything ever seen on television: he held every negative racial or ethic stereotype in the book and used slurs never before heard on television. But the series also dealt with serious issues. “All in the Family” is the only television series in history to finish 1st in the Nielsen’s five years running and all four stars won multiple Emmys in their respective acting categories.
Included on this DVD are the thirteen episodes that made up the first season, when the show was a mid-season replacement: (1) “Meet the Bunkers,” written by Norman Lear, where a surprise anniversary party for the Bunkers is just another excuse for Archie and Mike to have a fight; (2) “Writing the President” finds Mike and then Archie writing President Nixon on the state of the Union; (3) “Archie’s Aching Back” finds Archie hiring a Jewish lawyer to get a large settlement in a minor traffic accident; (4) “Archie Gives Blood,” although he is afraid his blood will get mixed with those of a different race; (5) “Judging Books by Covers,” thinks one of Mike’s friends is gay, but it turns out that it is one of Archie’s drinking buddies instead; (6) “Gloria Is Pregnant,” but suffers a tragic miscarriage in the first television show I remember making me cry; (7) “Now That You Know the Way, Let’s Be Strangers,” has Mike inviting a hippy friend to spend the night; (8) “Lionel Moves Into the Neighborhood” despite Archie’s efforts to keep a black family from buying the house next door; (9) “Edith Has Jury Duty” in a sitcom version of “12 Angry Men”; (10) “Archie Is Worried About His Job” and nobody can sleep that night; (11) “Gloria Discovers Women’s Lib” and angrily leaves the house when Mike refuses to treat her as an equal partner; (12) “Success Story” finds Archie reevaluating his definition of success when he runs into an old Army buddy; (13) “The First and Last Supper” has the Jeffersons coming to dinner at the Bunkers, except husband George (who is not seen until season 3) refuses to enter the house of his white neighbor.
“All in the Family” is one of the greatest television series of all time and I do not know of two many television critics or historians who do not have it down as one of the five best situation comedies ever aired. Too bad this DVD does not include the two failed pilots Lear put together for ABC, but the greater shame is that this is a bare boned edition with just the episodes. Yes, they are uncut, but a show as culturally important as “All in the Family” would certainly be worthy of commentary from the talented actors, writers and staff who changed television forever.
Let me say if I were to review the comedy alone contained within, this gets 6 stars, however this is a boxset and factoring that in, this is dismal. Every mistake in the book is here as far as how NOT to bring a classic series to dvd.
No Chapter Skips? Check.
No pilot? Check.
Poor transfer? Check.
Flimsy, awkward, (though nice looking) packaging? Check.
No remastered sound? Check.
No extras? Check.
I have a majority of these on the official Columbia House VHS series, and somehow the picture on those tends to be marginally better. Who woulda thought you could mess up perfection? The picture is sort of fuzzy, and every now and again you can see some digital imperfection. I am satisfied with the set because it is a space saver, but thats about it (other than the obvious quality of the perfomances). Why even take the time to bring these to dvd, then cut every corner in the book? Will I buy season 2? You betcha.