DVD Review: All in the Family Season 1

Rarely will you find a TV show that pushed boundaries like All in the Family. It's amazing how well the show holds up; it still feels controversial. Over 30 years later, it's impossible to imagine how it continues to push decency, but without Archie Bunker, the world would be a far less entertaining place.

While the entire supporting cast deserves credit, it will forever remain Carroll O'Connor's show. His racist, incoherent, and flat out stupid diatribes sets up a show that's unlike anything we've seen before. Even if you didn't see the show when it initially aired, you can only imagine people talking after each weeks episode about "what Archie said last night." Entire episodes fly by with barely a single dialogue line leading to the actual plotline of the episode. Instead, we focus on Rob Reiner's counter-attack to O'Connors Archie Bunker character. It's the most enjoyable time on television.

Future seasons would dig deep into the Bunker character, while this initial set of 13 episodes brings out every opinion from deep within the bowels of Archie's mind. It creates some of the most memorable episodes the series would have (after Reiner and Sally Struthers left, it was never the same), like Archie Gives Blood, Judging Books by their Covers, and Lionel Moves into the Neighborhood. The unforgettable scenarios still prove pushy for TV, and needless to say, we'll never have another All in the Family thanks to a world far too politically correct.

To take the show as meaningless racism is missing the point. Like classic Mel Brook's comedy Blazing Saddles, they showcase the ignorance of racists, not embrace them. To view All in the Family any other way is to miss the point. (**** out of *****)

While it never looked great on cable, this DVD set makes no attempt to clean the show up. It's dirty, faded, blurry, and coated in an odd greenish tint. It's not just the gaudy carpeting of the house (of which the interior doesn't even come close to matching exterior at the start of the show) that causes it. This is simply a bland, ugly transfer. (*)

Audio is as unspectacular as it could be. As long as the viewer can make out Reiner and O'Connor's screaming at their peak, it's all you could expect from a show of this age. Mono fans rejoice. (***)

Extras are inexcusably barren. Since the majority of the cast remains alive, including some of the writers/directors, there's not a valid excuse out there for not bringing them back to reminicse. Future seasons on DVD, up to now, fare no better. (No stars)

Packaging is just as awful, featuring a three-tiered case that opens horizontally. Inside, there's nothing. The barren white DVD holders are ugly, and the obviously re-touched photos on the front don't help with the presentation either. Episodes are recapped on a plain sheet of paper slipped inside. This show deserves more care than this.

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