On DVD: All in the Family The Complete Series
Created by Norman Lear
Starring: Caroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
All in the Family is one of those signature 70’s shows that always come up in discussions of the era including Mash and a few others. The thing that made All in the Family stand out was the show’s brash observations of racism and general prejudice in the United States during the early 70’s.
All in the Family may truly be one of the early shows that existed based on pop culture. The subject matter of many of the show’s episodes was deeply invested in what was going on the world at the time. The basis for the show was something that always an issue; the generation gap. Archie Bunker is a man of the old days full of old beliefs and a certain value system while his daughter, and more importantly her boyfriend are young and more modern with their value system. Each thought the other was ridiculous and there were constant arguments over various sociopolitical topics between them throughout the series with Archie’s wife Edith bringing on the ridiculously necessary comedy relief.
Caroll O’Connor took on the daunting and possibly career ending task of being the bigoted and often quite mean spirited father to this motley crew. Fortunately this series came to fruition at a time when storytellers could break ground in both television and film. Viewers understood that yes this was a television show and it wasn’t necessarily the views of the actors playing the roles. O’Connor would go on to do more great work on TV and “meathead” of course was played by Rob Reiner who later became one of the country’s most beloved filmmakers.
The show also comes from an era when so many shows were still too heavily influenced by stage plays. The show is shot and acted more like a stage play than a television show. It often feels like every character is playing to the back row even if that means yelling every line. With that said Archie is a grumpy guy and he yells a lot generally. This sort of staginess can make the show a little tough to watch as it doesn’t sit well on the palette of younger viewers accustomed to shows shot with a more reality base. It’s dated no doubt about it. With that said, a show exactly like this one, with so much in your face racism would never make it on television today. There are glimmers of it in some shows but those glimmers must be heavily candy coated. All in the Family set out to get in your face with statements about our world and they still managed to make you laugh while they did it. Many of the laughs don’t hold up as well these days because the show is so steeped in popular culture but some still do. This show is obviously something more for the nostalgic than for those looking for great TV to add to their shelves. The thing is All in the Family is an important and highly influential piece of television history and everyone should at least check it out. Without Archie Bunker there would be no Peter Griffin.
Ok what we have here is full frame SD video, and the source material is over 40 years old. So the show looks a little rough with a washed out color palette, even more so than the show is supposed to be< and a good bit of noise in the image. With that said this is the best I’ve seen the show look in years, and the show has been on fairly consistently since it eventually ended.
The very basic audio presentation here is like the video; old and worn. With that said the dialogue is fairly clean throughout the episodes and it doesn’t distort too much with all of the screaming. This is about as good as you could hope to hear the show without some kind of excessively expensive restoration and conversion.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Shout Factory has provided all 208 episodes on 28 discs. The discs are packed in fat amaray boxes and then bundled into a cardboard box. The artwork is honestly pretty bland overall featuring a ton of unused white space. It feels a little inexpensive to look at. They did spend the money on some supplemental material though.
There are actually some great bonus features on the last disc of the set. The stand out is the documentary titled Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family. In this documentary creator Norman Lear and the cast, except the now passed away Caroll O’Connor, discuss the show. They share behind the scenes stories of getting the show made and the influence the show had. They of course discuss each other and their characters as well. It’s great to even see Rob Reiner sit down for an interview about this series. To get even more in depth about the show and were it came from there’s a one on one interview with Norman Lear. Now some of the information in this interview is repeated in the documentary but overall it offers up fascinating background information. There are also pilot episodes for All in the Family spinoffs Gloria and Archie Bunker’s Place. Finally there are the first two pilots for the show that were created prior to the show finally hitting the air.
Some audio commentaries on key episodes would have been fantastic but what’s here is so much better than typically comes with these classic show collections.
All in the Family may be dated in its look and execution but watching you can easily see how so many modern shows were influenced by it. All in the Family is one of the most influential television series from the 1970’s and definitely at least worth a look.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Show 8/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10