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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

'Those were the days?'

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Complete 'All in the Family' box set recalls a less PC time

(Photo)
Archie Bunker and company
In a day and age when television is as politically correct as it could be, it's hard to imagine a series that would place a main character front and center where almost every word that came out of their mouth was pushing the envelope of good taste. However, that was the case with "All in the Family," which ran the entirety of the 1970s.

The series starred Carol O'Connor as the Archie Bunker, a middle-aged man whose view on society was less than P.C. He was a man who loved his family and neighbors, but was definitely a product of his time and environment.

His dialogue was racially-charged, filled with bigotry and even belittled his own family. But as creator Norman Lear points out in a documentary on the bonus disc, his reactions were the result of fear of an ever-changing world around him.

ShoutFactory! recently released the complete series consisting of all 208 episodes in a box set, and what a set it is.

In addition to all 208 episodes, there is a new interview with creator Normal Lear and two documentaries about the series. There's also the two pilot episodes that helped usher in the series.

I watched the series in reruns as a child and at the time Archie's words flew over my head. I heard people laughing, so it all must be all right, I assumed. But after I began watching the first few episodes, I found myself very uncomfortable.

While the series was definitely funny, I was very uncomfortable with the language. But as I watched the episodes, I began to understand that he might have been completely offensive with most of his views, but he always turned out to be in the wrong and the show highlighted that.

The main focus was O'Connor as Archie, but if not for Jean Stapleton's Edith Bunker, it would only be half of a whole. The duo's ability to play off each other is wonderful.

I also have to give huge credit to Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner, who I never really enjoyed when I was younger.

Watching the series as an adult, Reiner and Struthers might not have been the best actors, but they were the perfect choices for Gloria Bunker and Michael Stivic.

O'Connor in the role of Archie is nothing short of amazing. The actor created a character that has endured and can still deliver the laughs even after the series has been off the air since 1979.

I was amazed by how strong the series remained throughout its run. It would lose steam from time to time, but was always able to rebound. For a series that spanned nine seasons, "All in the Family" was able to find angles to stay relevant.

The series also produced a few spin-offs such as "Archie Bunker's Place" and most notably "The Jeffersons." The set also features the pilot episode of a spin-off titled "704 Hauser" a 2004 re-imagining of the series where an African-American family moves into the Bunkers' former home. The best way to describe it would be a train wreck. Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone.

Final Cut: "All in the Family" is a series filled with heart, but with its subject matter, it might not be for everyone. For those who grew up with the show, ShoutFactory's "All in the Family: The Complete Series" is a must own.

4.5 out of 5 stars