Archie Bunker's Place - The Complete First Season
DVD | Box Set
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Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Martin Balsam. O'Connor takes his All in the Family character to the next level and Archie opens up a tavern in Queens complete with a liberal new business partner Murray Klein. Guest appearances during the Emmy-nominated first season by Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers as Mike and Gloria add a little flavor to the brew. 24 episodes on 3 DVDs. 1979/color/9 hrs., 50 min/NR/fullscreen.
Archie Bunker's Place followed Norman Lear's long-running hit sitcom All in the Family with a largely new cast of characters surrounding Carroll O'Connor's beloved bigot from Queens, Archie Bunker. Jean Stapleton, reprising her role as Archie's wife, Edith, occasionally appeared in the new show for continuity's sake, but was gone by the second season. (Archie Bunker's Place ran from 1979 to 1983.) Seen much more often was young Danielle Brisbois as Archie's feisty niece, Stephanie, who moved into the Bunker home toward the end of All in the Family's duration.
The "place" in the series title is not, in fact, Archie's house but rather the saloon he bought into with barkeep Harry Snowden (Jason Wingreen), a development that also happened toward the conclusion of the previous series. Happy to have his own business, Archie still finds plenty to grouse about, not least of all the opinions and private affairs of his regular patrons (as well as Harry). Among the faces one is likely to find at Archie Bunker's Place at any time of the day or night are old pal and neighbor Barney Hefner (Allan Melvin) and Mr. Van Ranseleer (Bill Quinn), whose blindness seems to intensify his focus on surrounding conversations. (He's good at inserting the uninvited zinger in other people's dialogue.) The Complete First Season begins with something unexpected, however: Harry wants to sell his stake in the bar. Unable to raise the cash, Archie watches with great discontent from the sidelines as Murray Klein (Martin Balsam), a complete stranger, buys Harry out and becomes a partner. Archie and Murray's initially rocky relationship becomes more stable over time, and the two even develop a bond of trust and shared insight. Other highlights of the season include an episode in which kindly Edith takes a job helping patients at a psychiatric hospital (much to Archie's chagrin); a two-part Thanksgiving tale featuring daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her husband Mike (Rob Reiner), who pay a visit following Mike's dismissal from his teaching job in California; and stories starring Estelle Parsons (as Barney's sexy ex-wife) and Sammy Davis Jr. in a follow-up to one of the most popular All in the Family episodes. --Tom Keogh
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Top customer reviews
In "Archie and the Oldest Profession", Murray starts by suggesting they throw lovable hooker Dottie out of the bar, realizing she's using their place as a pick-up joint. While Archie is the voice of reason in the beginning, not wanting to get involved, Murray sways him to point of changing his mind. Then, out of the blue, Murray has a change of heart and doesn't want to interfere, while now there's no stopping Archie. Weird. Other times Murray retains his intelligent position as in the time when they deal with the tax department, and likewise with the liquor board as they re-apply for their licence. Murray shows lame judgement once again when he makes it his business as Barney gets involved with ex-hooker, now waitress, Dottie. But that doesn't take the cake. That honor goes to the time Murray decides to fool around with Barney's ex-wife Blanche, thinking its okay as they've now separated. He schmoozes her up with Barney in plain sight - like any fool knows that'd be asking for trouble. Apparently not Murray. And while its a bit of an issue for Archie in the beginning to accept a Jewish partner, and we sympathize and see Murray as the voice of reason on that issue, toward the end of the season we have the same Murray who hasn't spoken to his daughter for 6 years since she married a Latino husband. No, Murray doesn't prove to be the voice of reason he starts out to be.
Though that doesn't stop the show from being watchable.
And then there are still a few episodes around Edith which is nice. Stephanie is a light-hearted continuation of Season 8's cast and is also a good balancing element to the guys at the bar, who all get double time as does the new cook and lush, Veronica and her gay waiter nephew. Some of the episodes are better than others, but even the worst are still watchable, if not a laugh riot. They still deal with issues of the time and neighborhood and mostly manage to retain the show's original flavor in spite of emphasis on different characters. A couple of the more memorable episodes for me would be "The Return of Sammy (Davis Jr)", and "Van Ranseleer's (the blind man) Operation".
Incidentally, seasons 2 only continued to get better. Murray becomes a more likable and believable character in the 2nd season, so that I was sad to see him go when he did finally at the end of season 2. This show hadn't completely found its groove in season 1 but by the second season they were coming up with a lot of good stuff and Archie Bunker's Place was a very solid comedy which I liked just as much as AITF. It wasn't exactly the same, Archie evolved a bit, and just a bit, but it's fun to watch the characters grow as the 80s took hold. Perhaps in the final two seasons things did start to degrade somewhat with Billie holding the lead female part, and not a strong one at that. These seasons will get released some day. Season 2 should definitely get released. Carroll O'Connor was an incredible actor, and the writing in this show was and still is very powerful. However season 1, while decent, doesn't reach the heights that it will in following season.