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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
All in the Family: The Complete Second Season (1971)

"What I say ain't got nothing to do with what I think."
- Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: April 30, 2003

Stars: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
Other Stars: Mike Evans, Isabel Sanford, Bea Arthur, Hector Elizondo, Eileen Brennan, Sammy Davis Jr.
Director: John Rich

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for most audiences)
Run Time: 10h:00m:00s
Release Date: March 04, 2003
UPC: 043396004054
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
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B+ A-BB D

DVD Review

Originating in the fall of 1970, Norman Lear's All in the Family introduced television audiences to Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), a closed-minded fellow who longed for the "simpler" days of his youth. The civil rights and anti-war movements are viewed with tremendous annoyance because it differs from his world outlook. Living in a working-class neighborhood with his sometimes dim-witted Edith (Jean Stapleton), idealistic daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and outspoken son-in-law Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), Archie faces irritation on a daily basis. Unlike any sitcom that had appeared before it, the series tackled many difficult issues with unflinching agility.

Beloved by countless audiences, All in the Family provided hilarious moments while commenting on society. However, it also walked a fine line between skewering Archie and laughing a bit too much at his views. While many audiences understood the criticism, others assuredly agreed with the ideas and viewed Archie as a hero. Regardless, the show effectively presents both family and larger community issues. The second season allowed Lear and his collection of writers to expand a bit and place Archie in new situations. The familiarity of the characters does make some episodes seem a bit tired, but classic moments do exist throughout the season. Without further introduction, here are descriptions of the 24 episodes, rated via Archie's famous cigars:

Gloria Poses in the Nude
Written by: Norman Lear, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: David Soul (Szabo Djorak)

"A Hungarian is a guy who can follow you into a revolving door and come out ahead of you." - Archie

Archie is mystified by the arrival of Mike's good friend Szabo, a rising artist who specializes in abstract nude paintings. When he asks Gloria to pose nude for his latest creation, she is flattered and readily accepts his offer. Archie is obviously not thrilled by this decision, and repeatedly gives Mike trouble about his wife posing nude for another man. The result is a solid episode with Reiner having a nice breakdown near the conclusion.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 cigars.





The Saga of Cousin Oscar
Written by: Norman Lear and Burt Styler
Guest stars: Will B. Able (Rev. Felcher), Jack Grimes (Mr. Whitehead), Peggy Rea (Bertha), Connie Sawyer (Mrs. McNab), William 'Billy' Benedict (Jimmy McNab)

"Ain't that nice. Undertakers sound like Mother's Day cards." - Edith

The notorious Cousin Oscar has arrived at the house, and Archie wants him out of the house immediately. Events become complicated when Oscar drops dead, and the Bunker's must plan the funeral. A wide array of silly neighbors and relatives stop by the house, which helps to create plenty of comic amusement. Especially silly is Jack Grimes as the funeral director, who speaks with a fake, eloquent tone. There's also a quick appearance by Mrs. Jefferson, who Arthur denigrates in poor fashion.

Plenty of laughs earn this episode 4 out of 5 cigars.





Flashback: Mike Meets Archie
Written by: Paul Wayne, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: None

"Let me tell you something Mr. Stivic. You are a meathead." - Archie

The celebration of Mike and Gloria's first wedding anniversary causes them to recall his first meeting with Archie. Wearing a colorful, open-necked tie-dye shirt and looking more hippyish, Mike draws a befuddled look from his closed-minded future father-in-law. Their initial confrontation shows Reiner and O'Connor at their best and leads to a hilarious battle of wills. This flashback story easily ranks as one of the top episodes of the season.

Meathead survives! 4.5 out of 5 cigars!





Edith Writes a Song
Written by: Lee Kalcheim
Guest stars: Cleavon Little (Coke), Demond Wilson (Horace)

"When it comes to defense, democracy's gonna have to wait." - Archie

A conflict arises in the Bunker household over the use of their extra savings. Archie wants to buy a gun and an electronic dog alarm, while the others would like to send in the money to finance Edith's song creation. This tune is a horribly clichéd poem that draws the suitable bemused expression from Archie. To complicate matters, jewel thieves Coke and Horace invade their home while hiding from the police, with the gun playing a role. Future Sanford and Son star Demond Wilson and TV veteran Cleavon Little nicely skewer Archie's prejudice and Mike's liberal ideas in an energetic scene.

This episode rates 3.5 out of 5 cigars.





Archie in the Lock-up
Written by: Paul Wayne, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: Allan Melvin (Sgt. Pulaski), Ken Lynch (Callahan), Corey Fischer (Jesus hippie)

"Brother, you walk in darkness." - Jesus hippie (to Archie)

When Gloria discovers that Mike and Lionel may be in danger at a protest rally, she sends Archie to bring them back. If going to a protest isn't enough, Archie's torment increases when he's arrested and thrown in a cell with hippies and radicals. The moments in the jail are especially enjoyable, as the prisoners quickly turn against Archie's views. His "mouth-in-foot" statements to the Polish sergeant also provide a classic moment.

This episode rates 3.5 out of 5 cigars.





The Election Story
Written by: Michael Ross and Bernie West
Guest stars: Barbara Cason (Claire Packer)

"Mr. Bunker, you are a meathead." - Claire Packer

The upcoming local election spawns more conflict among the Bunkers as Mike and Gloria campaign for a liberal candidate, Claire Packer. During a wonderful moment, she stops at their house and discusses politics with Archie, who obviously does not share her world views. Several dents appear in his armor here, as we learn that Archie hasn't voted since 1960.

This intriguing episode rates 4 out of 5 cigars.





Edith's Accident
Written by: Michael Ross and Bernie West
Guest stars: Barnard Hughes (Father John Majeski)

Archie: How can a can of Gloria Peaches cause all that damage?
Edith: Maybe it was the heavy syrup.

Edith returns home from the store and is obviously upset about something. Once Archie finally discovers that she dented a car with a can of peaches, he is upset because she left a note. Archie believes the car's owner must be a shyster trying to swindle them out of money. However, when the guy arrives and turns out to be a priest, everything becomes more complicated. While it has some silly moments, this is not one of the better episodes.

This episode rates 2 out of 5 cigars.





Mike's Problem
Written by: Alan J. Levitt and Philip Mishkin
Guest stars: Brendan Dillon (bartender), Mel Stewart (Henry Jefferson)

"I'm going down to Kelsey's Saloon, where the only problem is closing time." - Archie

Mike has a problem between the sheets that no one really wants to discuss. Archie and Edith obviously have a difficult time discussing it, and it embarrasses Mike to even discuss it. As Archie puts it, he's "stuck in neutral" and can't overcome his nervousness. Several over-the-top scenes occur, and then Archie departs to the bar and asks Mr. Jefferson for advice. As usual, the discussion quickly reveals his biased nature. While not on the top echelon, this subject does offer some interesting reactions from the elder Bunkers and some frenetic moments for Reiner.

This episode rates 3.5 out of 5 cigars.





The Blockbuster
Written by: Austin Kalish, Irma Kalish, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: Peggy Rea (Bertha)

Archie: You didn't sound colored on the phone.
Mr. Byrd: I use the white telephone.

Archie is considering selling the house and moving the family to California. Mr. Byrd, "a blockbuster," is offering the Bunkers an exorbitant price and then will try to get their neighbors out at a cheap rate. Archie is all for the deal, but has a few shortcomings when discovers the salesman is African-American. Edith really puts her foot down here and refuses to let Archie sell the house. While sticking to just one basic storyline, this is still an interesting story.

This one-note episode rates 3 out of 5 cigars.





The Insurance is Canceled
Written by: Lee Kalcheim, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: Phil Proctor (Wendell), Rafael Campos (Little Emanuel)

"Wendell, give it to me straight or I'll punch you in the head." - Archie

One of the season's better episodes, this story coincides the loss of the Bunkers' insurance with Archie having to fire a co-worker. His dilemma stems from laying off the much-better minority worker or the lazy white one. Meanwhile, Edith's nephew Wendell arrives to explain the insurance cancellation. Archie's firing choice and their own problems with the insurance company present an intriguing contrast that plays out nicely by the story's end.

This compelling episode earns 4.5 out of 5 cigars.





Christmas Day at the Bunkers
Written by: Don Nicholl
Guest stars: Mel Stewart (Henry Jefferson), Isabel Sanford (Louise Jefferson)

"I see you go for the latest in Christmas trees, the Japanese Dwarf species." - Henry Jefferson

Christmas just doesn't seem the same this year at the Bunker household. Archie purchased a large plant that slightly resembles a tree, his gifts were His and Hers handkerchiefs to everyone, and his grumpiness is much worse than usual. What is the reason for his sour nature? It involves the lack of his normal Christmas bonus. Of course, singers, friends, and the Jeffersons stop by to spread holiday cheer, which makes Archie even more morose.

This episode rates 3.5 out of 5 cigars.





The Man in the Street
Written by: Don Nicholl and Lennie Weinrib
Guest stars: Jack Griffin (Bill Hopper), Neil J. Schwartz (Levy)

Archie: This is a swell bottle of wine.
Mike: Nice vintage, September.

Archie comes home from work in a surprisingly happy mood. The "man in the street" segment of Walter Cronkite's news program spoke to Archie at work about his opinion of President Nixon. Of couse, numerous problems ensue to make sure that watching the show on television is impossible. This entry showcases the best in sitcom insanity, where nothing works for Archie. Of course, there's always the option to watch the show at the Jeffersons' house.

This fun episode rates 4 out of 5 cigars.





Cousin Maude's Visit
Written by: Philip Mishkin, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: Beatrice Arthur (Maude Findlay)

"Edith, you can rest easy now; Maudie is here." - Maude

When everyone in the family but Edith comes down with the flu, her cousin Maude arrives to save the day. The main problem is that she does not get along with Archie at all, which is no big surprise. The episode drags a bit early on, but it takes off with Maude's arrival halfway through the show. She stands up well to Archie, and their standoff is a definite highlight. Arthur eventually took this character and moved on to her own television series, Maude.

Bea Arthur's lively appearance earns this entry 3 out of 5 cigars.





Edith's Problem
Written by: Burt Styler
Guest stars: None

"He ain't talking to me, he's talking to some old lady!" - Edith

Edith has been acting very strangely lately, with odd mood swings revealing a much angrier side. However, she seems fine minutes later, which worries the family. Gloria realizes that her mother is undergoing a "life change," known commonly as menopause, which gives Edith a complex about becoming an old lady. This effective story won an Emmy for Best Writing in a Comedy Series, and it showcases Stapleton and O'Connor at their best. Edith's outbursts of "Damn it!" and "Stifle!" are just a few of the hiliarious moments here.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 cigars.





The Elevator Story
Written by: Alan J. Levitt
Guest stars: Roscoe Lee Browne (Hugh Victor Thompson III), Eileen Brennan (Angelique McCarthy), Hector Elizondo (Carlos Mendoza), Edith Diaz (Serafina Mendoza)

"Wassamatter Bunker, afraid to face the future?" - Hugh Victor Thompson III

The Bunkers go out to dinner in celebration of Edith's birthday, but Archie must leave to pay a bill and rushes out to a nearby building. Unfortunately, he becomes trapped in an elevator with a frenetic woman, an upper-class African-American, and a young couple with a very pregnant lady. Predictably, Archie battles with everyone, and the woman goes into labor. Meanwhile, Edith has a bit too much wine and becomes inebriated. Some silliness exists here, but nothing too exciting occurs. There are several notable guest stars in the elevator though, including a young Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope).

This episode rates 2.5 out of 5 cigars.





Archie and the F.B.I.
Written by: Susan Harris, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Guest stars: Graham Jarvis (Larry Grundy), Jon Korkes (Mr. Bradford)

"They're asking questions about me! What the hell for?" - Archie

In this effective story, Archie is disturbed considerably by the appearnace of an F.B.I. agent, Mr. Bradford. Initially he asks about close friend Larry Grundy, but eventually Bradford starts investigating Archie. The paranoia continues to increase, with thoughts of bugs and spying agents going through Archie's head. The end result is a nasty confrontation between the two longtime friends that may create a permanent rift in their relationship.

The surprisingly heavy finale earns this entry 4 out of 5 cigars.





Archie Sees a Mugging
Written by: Philip Mishkin and Don Nicholl
Guest stars: Jack Somack (Tony Vicino), Val Bisoglio (Ralph Silvestri), Frank Campanella (Det. Sgt. Perkins), Bill Macy (police officer)

"It's your duty as a citizen to come forward and be a witness!" - Michael

Archie observes a mugging of a local Italian vendor, but doesn't want to act as a witness due to fears of the mafia. Several misunderstandings occur that create some worries for the Bunkers' safety. This was one of my least favorite episodes of the season, as it seemed too contrived to be very enjoyable.

This episode rates 1.5 out of 5 cigars.





Mike's Mysterious Son
Written by: Warren Murray
Guest stars: Marcia Rodd (Marilyn Sanders), Stephen Manley (boy)

Mike:Haven't you ever gotten anything you didn't ask for?
Archie: I'm looking right at it.


Mike's old girlfriend Marilyn Sanders drops off a child at the house and claims it belongs to him. This creates the expected chaos in the house between Gloria and Mike, as well as Archie and his son-in-law. The tense moments between the couple are especially effective, as is Edith's silly attempts to keep the boy's identity secret.

This worthy episode rates 4 out of 5 cigars.





Archie and Edith Alone
Written by: Lee Kalcheim and Don Nicholl
Guest stars: None

"Yes, I like being alone with you Edith. Turn on the TV." - Archie

When Mike and Gloria take a week-long trip to a commune, Archie and Edith have the entire house to themselves. After an argument where he calls her a "saint" and not a human being, Edith demands an apology. This tender episode showcases Stapleton's underrated abilities and Archie's begrudging love for his sweet wife.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 cigars.





Edith Gets a Mink
Written by: Don Nicholl and Dave Pollack
Guest stars: Isabel Sanford (Louise Jefferson), Rae Allen (Amelia DeKuyper), Richard A. Dysart (Russ DeKuyper)

"Once again, your side of the family." - Archie

Edith's rich cousin Amelia sends her a thank-you gift of a mink stole, which irritates Archie to no end. He refuses to accept their charity, until a food accident sends it to the dry cleaners. When the mink is ruined at the cleaners, Archie becomes much happier at the sizeable insurance check. As usual, things don't go as well as originally expected.

This mildly interesting episode rates 2 out of 5 cigars.





Sammy's Visit
Written by: Bill Dana
Guest stars: Isabel Sanford (Louise Jefferson), Sammy Davis Jr. (himself), Fay DeWitt (Mrs. Haskell), Keri Shuttleton (Clarissa), Mike Evans (Lionel Jefferson)

"If you were prejudiced, you'd walk around thinking you were better than anybody else in the world. But I can honestly say having spent these marvelous moments with you, you ain't better than anybody." - Sammy Davis Jr. (to Archie)

Special celebrity appearances on television series often fall flat, especially when they try to play someone other than themselves. Luckily, Sammy Davis Jr.'s appearance works nicely and plays well to the contradictions in Archie's views. The plot is not entirely outlandish, and it remains focused within the show's usual format. Subbing as a taxi driver, Archie meets the famous entertainer. When Sammy's suitcase is accidentally left in the cab, he must stop by the Bunkers' house to pick it up. The ensuing silliness is not a complete success, but it provides an enjoyable episode.

This fun entry rates 3.5 out of 5 cigars.





Edith the Judge
Written by: Lee Kalcheim
Guest stars: Jack Weston (Joe Girgis)

"The decision is: I'm a hung judge." - Edith

Edith sends Archie to the laundrymat, and of course things go extremely awry. Overfilling the washer, he basically destroys owner Joe Girgis' best machine. Both men plan to sue the other for damages, but instead they decide that Edith will choose their fate. While not one of the best episodes, this is a fun little story that once again showcases Stapleton's talents.

Justice is served! This episode rates 3 out of 5 cigars.





Archie is Jealous
Written by: Rod Parker
Guest stars: Brendan Dillon (bartender)

"I liked being called a 'Goddess of Beauty,' but it seemed more permanent when your father called me a dingbat." - Edith

Edith drops a bomb on Archie when she reveals her weekend getaway with Freddy Witthausner 25 years earlier. This disturbs Archie's ideas of purity, and causes him to become seriously jealous of this other guy. While his anger initially seems to follow the usual petty trail, it also reveals his love for Edith. While treading some of the same ground as past shows, we do get a few nice moments here.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 cigars.





Maude
Written by: Rod Parker
Guest stars: Beatrice Arthur (Maude Findlay), Bill Macy (Walter Findlay), Marcia Rodd (Carol), Bob Dishy (David Green), Bernie West (Repairman)

"Still fighting mental health, eh Archie?" - Maude

Archie and Edith rarely appear in this episode that served as the pilot for the spin-off series, Maude. The plot concerns the wedding of Maude's daughter Carol and the Bunkers' visit for the celebration. Most of the story centers on Maude and her family, who immediately set the groundwork for the immensely popular series. While not a typical episode, this is one of the best entries of the season.

This episode rates 4.5 out of 5 cigars.



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: All In the Family: The Complete Second Season appears in the original full-frame format that accompanied its television airing. The picture has been cleaned up and removed of the grain and defects that would appear on a 30-year-old transfer. However, there are limitations when dealing with visuals from the early 1970s. The result is a clear image that works nicely to present the show, which is all that is necessary to view its basic setting.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
PCMEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: This release utilizes a remastered stereo transfer that presents each episode clearly and effectively. The dialogue is never hard to understand, which is the only essential element for this series. The sounds are definitely more crisp than their original format, which places them closer in line with today's television shows. Once again, restrictions due arise to the technological limitations of the time period, but the end result is still acceptable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. TV Comedy Favorites Commerical
Extras Review: The lone extra feature available is a two-minute commerical for an array of additional Columbia Tristar television series on DVD. They include Mad About You, Good Times, and Sanford and Son. While the lack of any real supplements is not surprising for this type of release, it still is a disappointment. I would have enjoyed receiving some background on the series and the time period.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

All in the Family is highly regarded as the series that introduced tremendous controversy through its characterization of the prejudiced Archie Bunker. While that is definitely true, it does not truly explain the show's allure. Similar to Roseanne in more recent years, it succeeded by showing a regular, working-class family in a realistic manner. While Archie's views are short-sighted, his flaws also made him more human. The writers rarely take the simplest route for a laugh, and while some jokes do fall flat, the high points remain with you much longer than the typical sitcom.

 


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