All in the Family (Complete Series)

Directors - Various

Cast - Carroll O’Conner, Jean Stapleton

Country of Origin - USA

Discs - 28

Distributor - Shout Factory

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

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The Series (5/5)

   I was born years after all in the family went off the air. When I had started to catch episodes of the show Archie Bunker was a pop culture reference, and Sally Struthers was making attempts to help the needy in third world countries, by giving the viewing public the opportunity to help them for pennies a month on TV commercials I'd catch between whatever cartoon I was currently watching.

   Nickelodeon in the 80's had three viewing blocks, Nick Jr. in the morning that was set aside for education program for toddlers and preschool children, Nickeloden proper for older children, and Nick at Nite which catered to parents of children by screening archival classic TV programs in the overnight hours.  As a child and teenager, I certainly watched my share of Nickelodeon shows, but I was addicted to Nick and Nite programming, and all the shows that came from the earliest eras of television from Green Acres, Dobie Gillis, The Honeymooners, etc, all the way to 60's and 70's sitcoms like All in the Family and it's spinoff series the Jeffersons.

   The premise of All in the Family for the 2 people reading this that may not have heard of the show in the 40 years since airing centers around a family centered around patriarch Archie Bunker.  Archie, is your typical white-male Protestant of the early 70's, and much like the bandits of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch he is the last of a dying breed. The 60's and 70's brought positive society change for most of the world, racial, gender, and religious equality Archie, however, will have none of it. He is un-pc a character as one would get in TV. He is a no-nonsense character, that seems to only like the world as he sees it, and treats every one else with indifference.  The rest of the family is made up with his wife Edith, his grown daughter Gloria, and her husband Mike, who is constantly referred to as Meathead.

   All in the Family even 40+ years on is a hysterical sitcom that stands the test of time. It debuted as a mid-series replacement in 1971 for a scant 13 episodes and was expected to fail, and even as the PC era was beginning something in the character of Archie and his family was enough to make the show THE most highly rated show in the U.S. for 5 years running.  The show would run for an additional 4 years for a total of 9 seasons, and spawn 2 spinoff's Archie Bunker's Place, and The Jeffersons (who were recurring characters for a short while on the show, before getting their own sitcom). The show while not 100% for every episode, was still consistent enough for much of it's running time to justify that sort of popularity.

   When All in the Family the Complete Series showed up in my mailbox. I took a look at the massive 28 disc set with box admiration and a slight sense of dread. Not a bad sort of dread mind you.  The sense of how I would sit through, and review all that content.  It has taken about a month to watch damn near every bit of content on the disc, and the contents of every season, and spin off, but it was definitely a rewarding experience.  TV on DVD sets like All in the Family the Complete Series and The BBC classic Doctor Who DVD's (my personal favorite TV on DVD releases) are truly the best of what TV on DVD has to offer.  It feels like a time capsule to a viewing past, a way to fully explore a classic sure to it's fullest, with it's history placed into context through special features, and the exact complete and in their viewing order. This is one of the most elaborate classic sets I've ever gotten one of my hands on, and one of the true DVD treats of 2012.

Audio/Video (3/5)

   Shout! Factory have presented All in the Family the Complete Series Box Set in solid 1:33:1 full frame transfer.  These transfer do not show any signs of complete restoration, but look complete solid, and are probably the best they could look considering their age.

   The audio is presented with a Dolby Digital Mono track in English.  The track is fine for what it is dialogue is completely audible throughout the presentations, and I did not detect any audio dropouts or defects throughout the episodes.

Extras (5/5)

   This set includes a bonus disc not available on any other version of all in the family, and is a nice addition to an already killer box set. The disc kicks off with an 11 minute interview with the All in the Family creator and producer Norman Lear. Next up we get the 27 minute documentary Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family, and another 30 minute documentary the Television Revolution Begins All in the Family is on the air. We then get the 2 original rejected pilots for All in the Family, the pilot for Archie Bunker's place, the pilot episode for the spin-off show Gloria, and the pilot for a 1994 spinoff called 704 Hauser.  Also included is a 40 page booklet with liner notes by TV Critic Tom Shales and media Professor Marty Kaplan.

Overall

   All in the Family is one of the most famous, and significant TV sitcoms of all time.  Shout! Factory have put together a package that is nothing short of stunning.  This includes every single episode of the show including the pilots, and pilots for 3 spinoffs. We then get extras not available anywhere else. If there is a better example of a classic American TV show getting better treatment this year I haven't seen it.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.