“Boy the way Glenn Miller played....
Songs that made the ‘Hit Parade’
Guys like us, we had it made...
Those were the days!”
All In the Family - The Complete Fourth Season is brilliant TV. It is a testament to Norman Lear’s brilliance that he kept everything going for as long as he did. In the character of Archie Bunker he created what many magazines have referred to as the “beloved bigot”. However to look at Archie Bunker as just that is just plain wrong. It’s an easy dismissal of an important cultural icon and it serves nobody except special interests.
All In the Family on the surface is a situation comedy about about Archie and Edith Bunker. Their daughter Gloria and her husband Michael live with them as he finishes up college. Gloria and Michael are liberals. Archie is conservative(often expressing his love for “Richard E. Nixon”) and Edith falls somewhere between the two camps. It is here, in the differences of all the characters and their views that show creator Norman Lear really was able to deal with the issues of that time head on. On top of that, the fact that many of the issues being talked about are still relevant in 2005 is further testament to what a cultural phenomenon a show like All In the Family is.
In this the complete fourth season, we get to see Archie interact more with George Jefferson and new neighbor Irene Lorenzo. All of these characters only serve to show us despite how different one might think the Left and Right are, at their very extremes they are all basically the same. Some of my favorite episodes are “Pay The Twenty Dollars” in which George gets a phony $20 bill and claims that Archie is the one who gave it to him, or “Mike and Gloria Mix It Up” a very risqué episode in which Mike feels uncomfortable about Gloria’s sexual aggressiveness and then they both end up claiming they had affairs on one another, and then there’s “Archie is Cursed” in which Irene challenges Archie to game of pool and Archie claims Frank(Irene’s husband) put a curse on him so he won’t have to play her. Honestly, I think there are very few episodes of all in the family that I don’t like. These were just 3 that really stood out in my viewing.
I don’t know what it is about Archie Bunker but I love him. I love this show. The look, the writing, the acting...everything is perfect. I identify with all these characters at different times. I never feel fixed one way or another in my views on them, I just know that I am always waiting to hear what they have to say next. In fact, no matter how many times I watch these episodes, even if I have seen them a bunch of times, I never feel that anything is lost in my viewing experience.
Norman Lear you did it again. You are someone who has consistently put their money where their mouth is, you have taken great risks and through taking those great risks you have given us the great rewards of your television talents. In both comedy, drama, social issues and everything else...you never hit a false note. All In the Family - The Complete Fourth Season is further testament of that and is mandatory viewing for anyone who loves or even just likes this show.
No extras on these discs. Okay, I am not saying that these DVDs need to be packed with supplemental materials but it would be nice if there was at least a little something. Maybe some deleted scenes. Maybe a retrospective on the late Carrol O’Connor. Maybe some sort of interview with Rob Reiner, Jean Stapleton or Sally Struthers. Maybe a mini-doc on Archie Bunker’s effect on pop culture. Maybe some insights into political correctness and why characters like Bunker are needed to shake things up. Something!!! I am not asking for much I guarantee you that. It’s just that All In the Family is one of my favorite shows. I didn’t really watch it when I was younger, but I have discovered it over the last 2 years and I have really gained an affinity for it. This is starting to become very personal with me because I have started collecting these DVDs. I knew when the Movieweb Lords handed me this DVD that there wouldn’t be any extras, but I figured that at least here, in my review column, I would take this time to try and plead with the Sony to give me at least a little something extra on future releases of All In the Family. At this point, I would take anything. My biggest fear is that when the new Blue Ray discs come out, they will be crammed with extras and then I will be put in the predicament of deciding to whether to get rid of all my All In the Family DVDs in favor of new ones, or holding on to the old ones and not getting all the supplemental materials I am missing now.
1.33:1 format all the way folks. I know that on some releases, they try and “hip them up” by adding the widescreen in, but it seems like all you would get there is a loss of the picture on both the top and bottom portions of the screen. All In the Family is a show that needs to be preserved in it’s original format. It is a TV institution. In my line of thinking, it is in many ways more important then the news. All these shows look outstanding. There is no pixilation, very few “video hits” and overall the colors remain consistent from scene to scene and episode to episode. Even though I complained about the lack of extras on these discs, I have to admit that these are DVDs I don’t think should be cleaned up too much. Sure, I don’t want to watch and image falling apart, but I don’t want to see All In the Family all glossed up either. I think that the DVDs creators have struck a perfect tone between having the shows looks good, while not having them look so good that you can tell that there was work done to them. Checking the box covering, I saw that these shows were from 1973-1974. These episodes at 30+ years old look quite good. In fact there is even a glare that is created in certain moments of some of then episodes that many would look at as technical mistake. I certainly don’t. It gives these episodes a sense of place and time. A reverential quality that only underscores this shows charm.
Dolby Digital. Coming from SONY, it would be almost criminal if these things didn’t sound very good wouldn’t it? Everything seems to be in order as far as volume and levels are concerned. I was able to turn my set up and just leave it at a certain volume and I never had to adjust anything. In fact, other then the opening theme song differing in certain volume levels, I never had to touch my controller or adjust anything at all. And I am not even sure that it was the volume levels that caused my adjustment it. It might even have been Edith Bunker’s high pitched cackles that caused me to have adjust the audio? Who knows, whatever the case, this was another good example of the DVDs creators not breaking something that didn’t need fixing. It sounded just fine, and I think to try and clean it up anymore then it was would have done all the discs a big disservice. I also think that the use of “mood music”, sparse as it was throughout the all the episodes, really lends something to the effectiveness of certain points or themes. It was used so sparingly that when it was used, you really knew that there was a good reason for it. It was extraneous and it never made the characters or their situations seem hooky.
As the proud owner of all the first 3 seasons of All In the Family, I was happy and not too surprised to see that the packaging is pretty much the same for all 4 DVD box sets. By this, I mean, it’s the DVDs stuffed in an unfolding packaging with an outer box covering that mimics the cover of the unfolding package. In this case, the color scheme of the outer covering is white and purple with various pictures of the show on both the front and back. Inside are some more priceless pictures from the show with my favorite one being the picture of Gloria standing behind Archie with her hands out. Archie is of course in the foreground looking like his usual malcontent self. The 3 purple colored DVDs are each adorned with pictures of of the cast as well. While this packaging may not be winning any awards it certainly does the job. This is clearly a case of substance over style, because to my line of thinking, All In the Family is such a rich show, such an enjoyable and entertaining viewing experience that it only stands to reason that a big hullabaloo isn’t needed. These 24 episodes each stand on their own just fine.
All In the Family - The Complete Fourth Season is another home run for not only SONY but for the people behind bringing us All In the Family period. This is such a great show on so many levels, and I for one am honored to be it’s ambassador and to have been given the privilege to have reviewed this disc set on the hallowed pages of MOVIEWEB. This show is so strong every way around. How it deals with Archie Bunker’s “outmoded” thinking, how it deals with the marital problems of MIke and Gloria, how it deals with Edith who loves Archie but obviously doesn’t agree with him on everything...it is perfect.
It shows us that our ideas about the perfect life, the perfect family, the perfect world...are never perfect. It questions what is normal. What is accepted. It takes society and social conventions and turns them on their ears. Tearing the very fabric that holds them together to show that without love, without acceptance, without faith in our fellow man they aren’t strong enough anyway. At the same time, it takes idealistic statements like the one that I just wrote, and it turns them upside down. Nothing is sacred accept the ability to hold a mirror up to yourself and take an honest look.
All In the Family - The Complete Fourth Season continues Normal Lear’s examination of America. It is necessary and warranted and I am so glad that this show exists, that it is a part of TV history, that it still plays today because the ideas expressed, the feelings and emotions of human beings, are never “outmoded”.
All in the Family was released .