ALL IN THE FAMILY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Carroll O’Connor,
Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
Creator: Norman Lear
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Length: 612 Minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2007
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It ain’t supposed to make sense, it’s faith! Faith is when you believe something no one in their right mind would believe!”
And baby makes five…hey, it’s All in the Family.
The sixth season of the groundbreaking show was most memorable because it marked the arrival of little Joey Stivic in what had to be the most realistic portrayal of childbirth seen on television up to that point. Yes, the small screen had come a long way since Lucy and Ricky couldn’t even say the word “pregnant”, and millions of fans were left wondering where little Ricky came from considering his parents slept in separate beds.
But the year began with Mike (Reiner) and Gloria (Struthers) finally leaving the nest, taking up the Jeffersons’ old house next door to the Bunkers. But just because Meathead was no longer in the house, there was still plenty of good old fashioned tension between him and Archie (the inimitable O’Connor) over everything from religion to politics (“Leave President Ford alone…he’s doing a helluva job for a guy nobody voted for!”)
And of course, who could forget Archie’s sweet and longsuffering wife Edith (Stapleton). The four of them made for the best sitcom cast in history apart from The Honeymooners, and the characters and the terrific actors who played them gave the writers plenty of meat to work with week after week.
Lots of topics are covered, from organ donation to helping the elderly, from infant baptism to infidelity. It’s all done with great humor, as the woefully inept but hysterical Archie generously offers his opinions on each and every thing.
By the sixth year, the show didn’t seem quite as groundbreaking. Frankly, I missed the Jeffersons, who had moved on up to their own prime time show the year before. George and Archie were a match made in TV heaven. The bickering between Mike and Archie still existed, but with Mike moving out, it wasn’t quite as sharp as it had been. The Ford presidency wasn’t as eventful as Nixon’s, so there wasn’t as much to kid there. And the disastrous Carter presidency was about to begin, leaving the liberal writers without a lot to laugh about.
But there was still plenty of fun to be had. I remember season six not only for the arrival of Joey, but for the introduction of Beverly, the female impersonator who would come back again in the next season only to meet a terrible end. He (she?) was a delight, and added a little needed seasoning to the batter.
Gloria also has to fight for her job when her store decides a pregnant woman isn’t the image they wanted to present. Man, it really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it. Yikes. And Archie, in one of the most famous episodes, goes against the Stivics’ wishes and has Joey baptized…well, sort of.
The two part “Birth of the Baby” episode was quite interesting…as much as I’ve seen of the show in my youth and again in reruns, it occurred to me that I never remembered those. And there was probably a good reason, as it features Archie and his lodge brothers in blackface to perform a minstrel show. Man, it really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it. Yikes again.
In some ways, season six kind of marked the beginning of the end for one of TV’s most indelible sitcoms. Mike and Gloria would stick around for two more years, then leave the show, leading to the arrival of Archie’s little niece and what becomes the ‘jump the shark’ moment for many great shows, the addition of a cute kid. The ninth year would be the last before heading into Archie Bunker’s Place…but I’m getting WAY ahead of myself here.
All in the Family remains my all time favorite comedy because the characters were so real and rich to us fans. It proved that controversial topics could be tackled with warmth, understanding, and yes, laughter. Those were the days, indeed.
BONUS TRIVIA: Keep an eye out for some great guest stars: Billy Crystal, Bernadette Peters, Robert Guillaume and Doris Roberts!
It’s a 70s show shot on video, so you can’t expect much in the transfer department. They look about as good as you remember, and I’m glad to have them forever preserved in a digital format.
The spoken words and live studio audience laughter all sound fine…not much dynamic range or music apart from the theme song, but for the format, it works just fine.
Disc One has some previews of other Sony TV DVD releases.
They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. For some 30 years, I’ve waited for the sitcom that would pick up All in the Family’s torch and run with it, but it’s not meant to be. Some shows just arrive at the perfect moment in history to leave their mark on it, and this was definitely one of them.