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All in the Family - The Complete Fourth Season



DVD Release Date: April 12, 2005 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $29.95
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: Approx. 608 Minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English, Closed Captioned
Special Features: None.


By the fourth season, Norman Lear's landmark series All in the Family was on its way to becoming an American institution. It consistently ranked number one in the ratings while at the same time breaking all of prime-time TV's taboos. Archie Bunker's (Carroll O'Connor) shocking politically incorrect diatribes, marriage problems for Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers), and a breast cancer scare for Edith (Jean Stapleton) all broke with sitcom conventions.

In the fourth season, Archie hilariously faced two worthy opponents: neighbor Irene Lorenzo (Betty Garrett), a staunch believer in women's rights, and loud-mouthed George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley), soon to star in the spin-off hit series "The Jeffersons." Rob Reiner won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and the show was nominated for four other Emmy Awards for the fourth season.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Memorable episodes included "Archie and the Kiss," in which Gloria brings home a replica of the Rodin sculpture "The Kiss," but Archie gets mad and thinks the artwork is pornographic. Archie finally meets and spars with neighbor George Jefferson at Henry Jefferson's going-away party in "Henry's Farewell." In "The Games Bunkers Play," Mike refuses to accept honest constructive criticism about himself during a group therapy game. Archie is put off when Gloria befriends the mentally-challenged delivery boy from the local supermarket in "Gloria's Boyfriend." Over George Jefferson's objections, Archie attends Lionel's engagement party and encounters his match in the sharp-tongued Mother Jefferson in "Lionel's Engagement." Notable guest stars in season 4 included Robert Mandan, Michael Pataki, Vic Tayback, David Doyle, Richard Masur, Jane Dulo, and Richard Stahl. Sherman Hemsley made his debut as George Jefferson in "Henry's Farewell."


This 3-disc set features all 24 episodes from All in the Family's 4th season (1973-1974). The packaging for this season is similar to the packaging which has been used in the first three seasons. The cover art featurs a photo of Mike, Gloria, Edith, and Archie. There is an overall white and purple color scheme to the set. The main DVD case slips out from the left of the outer box. There is a three-fold digipak that holds the three discs, and there is a pocket that holds a 6-page episode guide booklet and a flyer that promotes current and future (One Day at a Time Season 1 and The Partridge Family Season 1) TV Show DVD releases by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. There is a photo of Mike holding cards with Gloria when you open up the digipak and a nice photo of Archie and Gloria on the back of the DVD case. The episode guide booklet features short summaries of the episodes with writing and directing credits. It would have been nice of them to include the original broadcast dates for the episodes as well as the guest stars. The discs each have a photo on them with a purple background. Disc 1 features Carroll O'Connor (Episodes 1-8), Disc 2 has Jean Stapleton (Episodes 9-16), and Disc 3 has a photo of Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers (Episodes 17-24).

Menu Design and Navigation:

The main menus feature the same photo as the outer DVD box and DVD cover case with a purple and white background. There is an option to 'Play All Episodes' or you can go by 'Episode Selections,' which has a photo from each episode. The menus are simple and easy to navigate, although I think it would be nice if they included the theme song on them. There are chapter stops within the episodes, but no separate menus for selecting specific scenes. Disc 1 contains a 'Previews' option for other Sony TV on DVD Releases. There are 3 separate promos for Classic Comedy, Contemporary TV, and The King of Queens.

Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality is much the same as the first three seasons. These episodes look as good as can be expected for being over 30 years old now. There are no major video or audio problems that I saw on the discs. All in the Family was originally recorded on analog videotape, which will degrade over time and in mono. Sony likely tried to make these episodes as presentable as possible with some digital impovements. All episodes appear to be unedited with running times around 25 to 25 1/2 minutes with the exception of one episode, which was 24 minutes, 44 seconds in length. The episodes are presented in their original airdate order.

Special Features:

The only downside of this set is the lack of extras. The first three season sets didn't include any special features, so it is not surprising that there are none included here. These sets are priced affordably, and I'm sure most people are just glad to have the episodes unedited (unlike the episodes you see on TV Land which are missing 2-3 minutes each) and in DVD quality.

Final Comments:

Overall, this is another nice set in the All in the Family series. If you've picked up the first three seasons, you will want to add this one to your collection. It featured strong performances by the entire cast, especially Rob Reiner who would win an Emmy. I would like to see Sony release the remaining seasons at a more rapid pace. Season 1 was released in March 2002. The wait between season 3 and 4 was not as long as from season 2 to 3, but it would be nice if they would release another season about every 6 months.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4.0/5
Audio Quality: 4.0/5
Special Features: N/A
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 03/24/05

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