TITLE: THE NORMAN LEAR COLLECTION
DVD Release Date: June 9, 2009 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 19
Number of Episodes: 115
Running Time: N/A
Running Time of Special Features: approx. 6 hours
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English subtitles; Closed-Captioned.
Norman Lear Intro - “Norman Says: Don’t Miss This!,”
All in the Family - “Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family,” The TV Revolution Begins: All in the Family Is On the Air,” “Justice for All” 1968 Pilot, and “Those Were the Days” 1969 Pilot
Maude - “And Then There’s Maude: Television’s First Feminist” and “Everything But Hemorrhoids: Maude Speaks to America”
The Jeffersons - “Movin’ On Up: The Jeffersons”
Good Times - “Ain’t We Lucky We Got ‘Em: Good Times”
Norman Lear - “The Legacy of Television Revolutionary”
Sanford & Son - “Everybody Loves a Clown: Sanford & Son”
One Day at a Time - “This Is It: The Story of One Day at a Time”
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman - “Inside the Funhouse Mirror,” “On the Verge of...,” and two bonus episodes (episodes 129 and 130) “Mary’s Breakdown, Parts 1 and 2.”
Norman Lear is one of the most legendary and well-known producers of all-time, and now you can see how 7 of his most famous comedies got their starts. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has put together a collectible box set featuring these seven shows with the first seasons of each. We get the first seasons each of All in the Family (13 episodes), Maude (22 episodes), The Jeffersons (13 episodes), Good Times (13 episodes), Sanford & Son (14 episodes), One Day at a Time (15 episodes), and Mary Hartman Mary Hartman (first 25 episodes). If you noticed, besides Maude and Mary Hartman, all of the first seasons were between 13-15 episodes, as they started off during midseason. Maude started in the fall and Mary Hartman was a first-run syndicated series and didn’t air on network television.
These first seasons have already came out on their own, but in addition to that we get new packaging and 6-hours worth of new interviews featuring Norman Lear and many stars from these shows and also lost pilots and bonus episodes.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Now this section is hard to do with seven series. Of the seven series, we have done season one reviews of only Maude, One Day at a Time, and Mary Hartman, as the other first season DVDs came out before 2004, when our DVD reviews started. So I’ll cover two memorable episodes and a few guest stars each for All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford & Son. For All in the Family, you cannot miss the first one “Meet the Bunkers,” when Mike and Gloria plan a surprise party to celebrate Archie and Edith's 22nd anniversary. But it quickly turns into a shouting match between conservative Archie and the liberal "Meathead" on virtually every topic. In “Lionel Moves into the Neighborhood,” Archie and several neighbors learn that a black family is moving into the neighborhood, unaware that it is the Jeffersons. Lionel finds out about the effort to purchase the Jeffersons' new house and gets Archie to reveal his plans. Some of the guest stars for this second are Mike Evans, Isabel Sanford, Richard Stahl, Jack Bender, Jenny Sullivan, Vincent Gardenia, and Burt Mustin.
For The Jeffersons, in the premiere episode “A Friend in Need,” George wants to hire a maid for his new luxury apartment, but Louise, having worked as a maid herself for many years, doesn't feel comfortable with the idea. In “Mr. Piano Man,” George likes the idea of boosting his classy and luxurious image, so he asks Louise to purchase a piano for their home, despite knowing that no one around can play one. George later becomes positive the piano will impress Mr. Whittendale, a wealthy banker whom he always wanted to meet, but due to Florence's impudent behavior, the piano purchased turns out to be far too big for the apartment.
For Good Times, memorable episodes include “Black Jesus,” where J.J.'s painting of a Black Jesus, becomes the family's good luck charm after a string of success hits each family member. However, Florida refuses to entertain the notion that the painting had anything to do with the recent string of "good times." In “Getting Up for the Rent,” with an eviction notice over their heads, the Evans family scrambles to come up with $74 dollars needed for their rent. Some of the guests include Hal Williams, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Frank Campanella.
For Sanford & Son, in the premiere episode “Crossed Swords,” Lamont buys a porcelain figure for $15 from a silent movie star. After having it appraised, Lamont and Fred decide to sell it at an auction. They attend the auction pretending to be buyers to bid the price even higher. However, things go awry to Lamont's dismay. In “TV or not TV,” in need of a new color television, Fred is upset when Lamont decides to spend the money instead on a new car. Lamont has a change of heart, however, when Fred wanders away from home and is taken to the hospital - with an apparent case of amnesia. Some of the guests include Robert Mandan, Hal Williams, Jenny Sullivan, Judyann Elder, and Dick Van Patten.
View our memorable episodes and guest stars for Maude, One Day at a Time, and Mary Hartman.
This is where everything is different. All of these seven series came out before on their own as first season sets, but you can throw that out now. The cases and disc arts are different for each. But before we get to that, we have to open our way through that! We have an outer clear slip sleeve that is holding the box. The slip sleeve is clear on the front but on the back it has a preview of what the inside looks like and highlights of what is on this set. It is very colorful and cool. For the actual box (I guess we can call it that?), it is white in color with a nice drawing of Norman Lear that is filled in by many photographs from his series. The box is split in the middle, so we can open it. The right side of the cover art it says “The Norman Lear Collection” and lists the seven series. Before we open it, let’s turn it over so we can see the back of this. We see a drawing of the back head of Norman Lear with more photographs. Back to the front, we open the box on each side and you’ll see four cases on each side and in the middle we have a very nice real photo of Norman Lear surrounded by many photographs from his series. It looks very cool! There is a tagline that says, “One of the Most Influential Creators in the History of American Television.” The cases are sort of tightly put in and are sort of hard to take out, I think. The left side has the cases for All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffesons and Mary Hartman. The right side has One Day at a Time, Maude, Sanford & Son, and the new Special Features.
Let’s detail the cases and discs. The cover of each case has the same cover art of the actual first season releases, but that’s about it. Everything else is changed. These cases are cardboard, but they are not cheap. Each case has lots of color photography, show logos, show stars, quotes, disc-by-disc breakdown (episode number, title, and synopsis), and episode credits. The discs themselves are in pockets on the top. They are hard to get out and could be easily scratched. I prefer the push down thing to remove discs. As for the discs themselves, they match the style of these cases. Each disc has “The Norman Lear Collection” title on top followed by the show logo and artwork from the series. It is very nicely done and better that the usual Sony style artwork on discs. Also, the back of each case has a nice paragraph description on the series with nice color photographs that features Norman Lear usually with the stars.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menu for each series is the same as the first season sets of each. They didn’t change any contents of these first seasons, just the packaging and disc art. Again, we didn’t cover the first season DVDs for 4 of these series since they came out before 2004, so we don’t have details on those. However, view our menu design and navigation for
Maude, One Day at a Time, and Mary Hartman.
We will cover the menu design for the Special Features though! It looks similar to the artwork on this set, with a photo of Norman Lear surrounded by photographs from his series. The features are all listed on the main menu. If there is more than one feature for a show, the main menu will list the show’s name only and then you go to a submenu where the features for that show are listed. This is the case for All in the Family, Maude, and Mary Hartman. Everything else has one feature each.
Video and Audio Quality:
Again the video and audio are both the same for each of the 7 series since nothing is changed content wise. Video for each is decent and nothing too bad, same goes for audio. Check out our details on
Maude, One Day at a Time, and Mary Hartman.
As far as the special features DVDs, the interviews are obviously in great quality since they are new. The lost pilots for All in the Family look a bit choppy, especially “Justice for All.” The two bonus episodes of Mary Hartman are on par with the quality from the first season set. There are no chapter stops on any of this bonus material. None of these sets really had any extras on their first season sets but One Day at a Time had the reunion retrospective, and that is in tact on this set as well, since of course they didn’t change any of the content inside the discs.
Now to the extras! This is the best part of this set! We have almost 6 hours worth of special features. The extras are spread over two discs. The first extra is a Norman Lear Intro titled “Norman Says: Don’t Miss This!” This is just basically Norman wanting to thank us and to watch this set. It runs 48 seconds. Next up we have many extras for All in the Family. The first one is titled “Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family.” This runs 26:59 and has interviews with Norman Lear, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers. We learn here how two pilots were needed before CBS finally put it on air. We also get stories on casting, character development, network reaction to the pilots, and much more! Next up we have “The TV Revolution Begins: All in the Family Is On the Air.” This runs 30:38 and has interviews again with Norman Lear, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers. We also get an archival interview with Carroll O’Connor! This is about making it on the air and lasting 13 episodes and getting a surprise pick-up for season two. We also get a talk on the characters and the great chemistry between the four key players. Finally we have two unaired pilots for the series! “Justice for All” (35:08) 1968 Pilot and “Those Were the Days” (26:59) 1969 Pilot. You can see how different everything looks and each of these pilots had everyone being different but Carroll and Jean. This is cool to watch and thank god we got Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers instead of the two pairs we saw on these two pilots.
Next up is Maude. We have a feature called “And Then There’s Maude: Television’s First Feminist.” This runs 22:27 and has interviews with Norman Lear, Bea Arthur, Rob Reiner, Adrienne Barbeau, and Rue McClanahan. We learn how Maude went from being on All in the Family to her own series. Next up is the feature “Everything But Hemorrhoids: Maude Speaks to America.” This runs 14:31 and has interviews with Adrienne Barbeau, Norman Lear, Rue McClanahan, and Bea Arthur. These Bea Arthur interviews are all-new as these were done in 2008. Bea passed away last month. We learn how the cast worked with Norman Lear here.
Next is a feature on The Jeffersons called “Movin’ On Up: The Jeffersons.” This runs 17:11 and has interviews with Norman Lear. Unfortunately, none of the living cast members appear here. Sherman Helmsley and Marla Gibbs woukd have been nice here. Anyway, Lear reflects back on this long running series here. Then we have a feature on Good Times called “Ain’t We Lucky We Got ‘Em: Good Times.” This runs 27:37 and has interviews with Norman Lear and Jimmie Walker. It’s a shame only Jimmie is here from the cast talking about the series and Norman. Anyway, Norman and Jimmie talk about the show and its impact on black audiences.
Moving on to disc two, we have a Norman Lear feature called “The Legacy of Television Revolutionary.” This runs 8:19 and stars from his shows reflect on how good he is. Interviewed for this piece are Louise Lasser, Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau, Mackenzie Phillips, Rue McClanahan, Jimmie Walker, Rob Reiner, Mary Kay Place, Bonnie Franklin, and Norman Lear himself.
Next up we have a feature on Sanford & Son called “Everybody Loves a Clown: Sanford & Son.” This runs 12:03 and Norman Lear talks about the creation of the series, Redd Foxx, NBC instead of CBS, and how Demond Wilson was cast. It is a shame only Norman reflects here, as Demond Wilson is the only living cast member really left, but he is not on this. We also have a feature on One Day at a Time called “This Is It: The Story of One Day at a Time.” This runs 30:27 and has interviews with Norman Lear, Mackenzie Phillips, and Bonnie Franklin. Find out the back story on the show and how Norman developed it.
Finally, we have features on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The first feature is called “Inside the Funhouse Mirror.” This runs 29:39 and has interviews with Norman Lear, Mary Kay Place, and Louise Lasser. Next we have another feature called “On the Verge of...” This runs 18:15 and has interviews with Norman Lear an Louise Lasser. Lear says Lasser had the best single performance by an individual in the history of television on this series in the “breakdown” episode. And as a bonus, we get those two episodes (episodes 129 and 130) “Mary’s Breakdown, Parts 1 and 2,” on this set! They run 22:39 and 23:06.
Norman Lear has produced so many classic TV sitcoms and it is a good thing we get 7 of them here. Too bad they are only the first seasons, though. Many of them started midseason and flourished. Today not many midseason series make it. I wish Sony made this set into the complete series for these seven series. But it would have been just too pricey and big, so I guess this is the best way to go. I do think on the extras disc, it would have been nice to have an episode each of his other series that are not as popular like Hot L Baltimore, The Baxters, Fernwood 2Night, Forever Fernwood, A Year at the Top, All that Glitters, Hanging In, aka Pablo, Sunday Dinner, 704 Hauser, and The Powers That Be. They were all short-lived. Hanging In was an interesting series. That series was originally supposed to be a continuation of the Maude with Maude moving to Washington, D.C. and becoming a congresswoman. But after shooting two episodes, Bea Arthur quit, and the show was re-titled Onward and Upward starring John Amos. But then Amos and the show's producers reportedly didn't see eye-to-eye, so Amos left as well, and was replaced by Cleavon Little. The series was re-titled Mr. Dooley, then Mr. Dugan. Many episodes were taped and set to air on CBS beginning in March 1979, but when black activists complained about what they perceived to be a negative portrayal of African-Americans in politics, CBS pulled the plug. The series was overhauled once again, and eventually became Hanging In. It would have been nice to see those unaired Arthur episodes and if any were made with Amos. And those episodes with Cleavon Little would be nice to see also. Sony needs to go into the archives more!
Anyway, they did well with set actually. It isn’t cheap as the complete series sets they have put out of shows like Good Times and What’s Happening!! The special features are greatly produced and interesting to see. I just wish they also gave us an episode or two of those short-lived series as well to make this set even more valuable. And all of his series are from Sony, so they do have rights to them! I think fans of these seven series needs to get this set for sure. The special features are great and I think is worth the price. If you don’t have any of these seasons, then this is good way to start. But I think this is for die-hard fans of TV and these shows in general. Hope this sells well so Sony can continue with season sets of these series as only Sanford & Son and Good Times is complete. The rest need to be complete. Get to it Sony!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5 (in general for all shows)
Audio Quality: 4/5 (in general for all shows)
Special Features: 3.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5 (in general for all shows and special features discs)
-- Reviewed by pavanbadal on 06/06/09
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