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The Complete First Season
Running Time: 286 minutes
Starring: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
Retail Price: $39.95
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: March 26th, 2002
There will probably never be enough words to describe "All In The Family" and the impact that it had throughout the world, pop culture and television. Based on the British sitcom "Till Death Do Us Part," television genius Norman Lear pioneered and broke so many barriers with the American version that is so recognizable to nearly everyone. Every a few test pilots that didn't go over so well, Lear finally got his choice casting that was pitch perfect, and on January 12th, 1971, "All In The Family" made its television debut (with that now famous disclaimer before it). The show did okay in the ratings, but more people discovered it during reruns that summer and it became a smash hit.
For the two of you who don't know what "All In The Family" is about, it focuses on working class man but lovable bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor in his arguably most famous role) who dealt with the world mainly with those around him. Archie always butted heads with his son-in-law Mike "Meathead" Stivic (Rob Reiner) and his liberal views. Of course, you also have Mike's loyal wife Gloria (Sally Struthers) and Edith (Jean Stapleton), who, despite her sense, kept things in place.
Despite the writing and the concept, the chemistry and skill of the actors all brought it to life. While Sally Struthers is often mocked now, and some argue her acting skills weren't always up to par, she truly makes a great Gloria and does play well off the actors. Before Rob Reiner made his mark as a director, he captured the spirit of Mike as well as his intensity. The role of Mike is key, because of his relationship with Archie, it is essential that you believe his feelings and that he works well against Archie, and Reiner does that. I really couldn't imagine anyone else as Edith, and Jean Stapleton is always in command and perfectly brings all the mannerisms and ideals of Edith to life. But it, and always has been the late Carroll O'Connor who steals the show who made Archie Bunker just that - Archie Bunker. His expressions, his face, the way he talked and his body language... Connor's delivery was always solid and perfectly on par with the character.
"All In The Family," in my opinion, was a show that came out at the right place and right time. A lot of the themes and topics discussed may seem somewhat tame now for primetime television, but at the time, they were quite taboo. There was a lot of controversy concerning the show in that way, as Archie always had something to say about everything. Be it religion, birth control, sex, morals, the world itself and more. Yet it wasn't always in a serious matter. Yes, the arguments were poignant and made good points, but it used humor with them. The wit and dialogue in this show is always hilarious, and there is always something to laugh at. And over thirty years later, the show is still hilarious and everything remains rather valid.
But because of all this, "All In The Family paved new ground and for that, "All In The Family" will always be one of the best and most influential shows of all time. It truly changed the look of television as far as storytelling and sitcoms go, not to mention the successful (and not so successful) spin-offs it raised. You have the entire first season here, and that's a great thing. So if you've never seen it (you don't know what you're missing), this is a great place to start... the beginning. The season sets the characters up, sets the tone of the show and in the end, just shows what the whole series was about and why it made such an impact: believable characters, great comedy and a lot of truths being raised. The episodes included on this release are "Meet The Bunkers," "Writing The President," "Oh, My Aching Back," "Judging Books By Covers," "Archie Gives Blood," "Gloria's Pregnancy," "Mike's Hippie Friends Come To Visit," "Lionel Moves Into The Neighborhood," "Edith Has Jury Duty," "Archie Is Worried About His Job," "Gloria Discovers Women's Lib," "Success Story" and "The First and Last Supper."
Presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratios, I was surprised how great this first season of "All In The Family" looks. It actually looks pretty sharp, but it can be a tad bit faded or dull. The colors are pretty well saturated and stand out. The shadow detail is also pretty good, but there is some noise and shimmering here and there. The transfers sort of feels fresh, but they don't. Still, good quality is to be found here.
The audio here does its purpose and is just fine for what it is, especially since "All In The Family" has always been a dialogue driven television program. There is no hissing or defects in the audio. Everything sounds fine here... you can hear the laughs on the laughtrack, Archie's rants, the theme song music and a few sound effects. It's just very straightforward and without flaws. Again, it works for the program just fine. The English mono is suitable and I don't think much remixing could have been done here, anyway. Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions through your television.
Nothing. Too bad. I would have loved to see the original pilots, retrospectives from the cast and crew, something on the impact... just anything with some substance. Maybe even Rob Reiner commentaries... well, maybe not. We know how much he pauses!
Forget how historic it is, "All In The Family" is one of the greatest television shows of all time filled with superb acting, sharp writing and great points about American culture. The presentation for this set is good, I just wish there were some extras (maybe Columbia/Tri-Star will work on that for future seasons). No matter though, I'm just thrilled to own the entire first season in my favorite format. If you're a fan of the show, then this is truly worth a purchase. Bring on season two!