Boy, the way the Beaver played. Ricky Nelson made the hit parade. Voices they were seldom raised. Those were the days. And then, on January 12, 1971, America met the Bunkers, and sitcoms would never be the same. The Bunkers were TV's first dysfunctional family: blue-collar bigot Archie (the late Carroll O'Connor in his iconic role), his long-suffering but loving wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), "little goil" Gloria (Sally Struthers), and her liberal husband "Meathead" Mike (Rob Reiner). Series creator Norman Lear broke near every rule and taboo in adapting the British series "Till Death Do Us Part" for American television. The series pilot, "Meet the Bunkers," was a bracing shocker that dared to find humor in prejudice. Archie dispenses racial epithets and ethnic slurs. Mike and Gloria clearly have an active sex life, while Edith, in the pilot at any rate, is more "pip" than "dingbat." In its first season, the series refused to, in Archie's words, "stifle" itself, tackling such hot-button topics as homophobia ("Judging Books by Covers"), racism ("Lionel Moves into the Neighborhood"), feminism ("Gloria Discovers Women's Lib"), and the generation gap (the touching "Success Story," with William Windom as Archie's former army buddy, a successful man who is revealed to be estranged from his son). All in the Family
was a rich human comedy. Brought to life by a peerless ensemble, these characters would come to feel like family. Their foibles produced some of television's biggest laughs. They could also make us cry, as with the heartbreaking "Gloria's Pregnancy." Another series landmark is the season finale, "The First and Last Supper," in which we meet Isabel Sanford's Louise Jefferson (but, hilariously, not her husband, George). All in the Family
was an instant lightning rod for controversy but went on to earn the comedy Emmy Award in its first year. This three-disc set has no extras (future sets will hopefully contain commentary by Lear or surviving cast members), but each episode is presented complete and uncut, restoring the funny, sometimes touching codas that were cut for syndication. --Donald Liebenson
Those were the days. Norman Lear's landmark comedy featured one of the most beloved families in television history, the Bunkers. Starring Carroll O'Connor as Archie, Jean Stapleton as Edith, Rob Reiner as Mike "Meathead" Stivic and Sally Struthers as Gloria, "All in the Family" remains an Emmy® Award-winning treasure. Watch this ground-breaking first season for yourself and just try to stifle your laughter!