Room 222: Season 1
DVD | Box Set
When Room 222 premiered in 1969, it quickly made Friday nights worth staying home for. A compelling series about life at a multiracial Los Angeles high school, it left an indelible mark on popular culture by using the half hour form to explore socially relevant issues (more than a year before All In The Family) and by starting the still-popular trend of high school television series. Created by the now legendary James L. Brooks (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Simpsons), the program was praised for dealing realistically with such subjects as prejudice and drugs.
Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes) is a dedicated and popular history teacher who fights the good fight on the side of his students. Joining him in his idealistic approach to education are guidance counselor Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas) and student teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine). Experienced and slightly world-weary principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine) provides a balance to the youthful idealism of the 60s cultural revolution but at the end of the day everyone is on the side of the students. Season One guest stars include Teri Garr, William Schallert, Bob Balaban, Kenneth Mars, Bud Cort, Donald Moffat, Larry Linville, Beah Richards, Paul Winfield, Nancy Wilson, Bernie Kopell, Rob Reiner and more.
* Forty Years On: All new interviews with creator James L. Brooks and cast members Denise Nicholas, Karen Valentine and Michael Constantine
From its auspicious pilot episode, Room 222 was in a class by itself, earning an Emmy Award its first season for Outstanding New Series. James L. Brooks, who would graduate to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The Simpsons, created this groundbreaking dramedy set in integrated Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles. Anchoring the Grade-A ensemble is the late Lloyd Haines as idealistic history teacher Peter Dixon, who doesn't go by the book. "The world is being revised," he tells his students. "You'd better be doing some thinking." Denise Nicholas costars as compassionate guidance counselor (and Dixon's girlfriend) Liz McIntyre. Michael Constantine earned an Emmy Award as job-weary, but principled principal Mr. Kaufman. Karen Valentine also earned an Emmy as over-eager student teacher Alice Johnson. Rarely seen in syndication, Room 222 is a rediscovered treasure that holds up 40 years later. Episodes deal with such timeless issues as self-esteem (a disruptive student uses humor to mask his loneliness), course relevance (students rebel against their elderly "Preparation for Marriage" teacher), school bureaucracy (a prize student reveals he actually lives out of district), and popularity (a new student lies to gain acceptance). Room 222 gets high marks for keeping it real. It tackled some hot button issues of the day, such as race, in an understated and meaningful way (even the laugh track is restrained). When Alice asks Peter if he prefers to be referred to as colored, Negro, or black, he responds, "I've always preferred 'Pete.'" Among the standouts in the classroom are Howard Rice as the precocious Richie, David Jolliffe as Bernie with the red afro, Heshimu as militant Jason, and Judy Strangis as shy Helen Loomis. The show also features early appearances by a roster of Most Likely to Succeed candidates, including Teri Garr, Rob Reiner, and Bob Balaban, along with such TV Land faves as William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show), Ann Morgan Guilbert (Millie on The Dick Van Dyke Show), and Bernie Koppell (Get Smart). Little, if any, restoration works appears to have been done, but in this case, the washed-out colors and less than crystal audio complement Room 222's 60s vibe. This set gets extra credit for a nice bonus feature, a series retrospective featuring new interviews with Brooks, his writing partner, Allan Burns, Constantine, and Nicholas. Their affectionate and candid remembrances put this show in the context of the era and restore its legacy as one of TV's smartest, and, for the time, hippest, half hours. --Donald Liebenson
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Season One has some special feature content which was nice to see since it included Denise Nicholas and Michael Constantine talking about their experiences on the show. It's like visiting with old friends again. I hadn't seen this show since it went off the air in the 1970's when I was in high school.
What strikes me first about the show is how innocent it was. At the time, we all thought "222" was cutting edge and not a little controversial. To watch it today is to experience an era of idealism among teens which is sometimes hokey, but always endearing. The big winners here, though, are the teachers and staff of Walt Whitman High School. Michael Constantine's principal, Seymour Kaufman, is dryer and funnier than I had remembered. Lloyd Haynes' Pete Dixon is just as cool as I remembered him. I wanted to be Pete Dixon when I grew up, and now I see why; the guy is everything 1970's hip. Denise Nicholson is equally with-it, and more beautiful than I realized in 1969, at which time my first crush was Karen Valentine. It's easy to see why, though. Beneath the doofiness of her Alice Johnson is comic timing that was destined for TV greatness, and there's no mistaking her hidden grown-up attractiveness.
Honestly, I enjoyed every single episode of this 4-disc set--something I can't say for most TV series I've purchased on DVD (which is many). I can't wait for Seasons 2, 3 and beyond to be released. I'll be first on line to purchase again.
Created by James L. Brooks (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant, The Simpsons), Room 222 follows the teachers and students of a racially integrated high school, one of the first times in television history (but not the last, Boston Public is an example of show that is a direct descendent of Room 222). I'm one of the original audience of Room 222 and I remember it more as a comedy, so I was a little surprised to see that it was a little more issues oriented, taking on subjects that at times seem remarkably relevant today. When the first season aired in 1969 you were aware that Room 222 was a ground breaking show that centered on lives of an integrated student body and faculty.
Pete Dixon (Lloyd Hanes) is the always hip history teacher in Room 222. He's open minded and progressive but pragmatic. He's open to the students and their problems and is a guide to the students allowing them to find the solutions to their problems without too many complications.
Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas), the school counselor, is Pete Dixon's girlfriend, confidant and accomplice in finding solutions to the students problems.
Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine), the perky "it" girl of the late 60's, early 70's who is Pete's student teacher and is full of the bubbly unfettered idealism of the 60's, who says the first thing that comes to mind and which may be the wrong thing to say.
Principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine) the outwardly curmudgeonly school principal with a hang dog expression who lets himself be talked into the idealistic plans of Pete and Liz on behalf of the students.
The show had a lot of young actors as the students that would go on to more high profile careers Cindy Williams, Rob Reiner, Bob Balaban, Teri Garr, Ed Begley Jr., and Bud Cort. As well as adult actors who either had already had careers on TV or would go on to bigger television success such as Bernie Kopell, Paul Winfield, Larry Linville, Ann Morgan Guilbert, William Schallert, as well as many character actors from the 60's who are instantly recognizable if their names aren't.
Bonus features: There is one bonus feature, a ten minute documentary "40 Years On" which has series creator James L. Brooks, writer Allan Burns, stars Michael Constantine and Denise Nicholas talking about the show. I wish there had been a few more bonus features. A commentary track on some of the episodes might have been cool, it would have given a little more insight into the episodes and the making of the show. Or even interviews with the actors who played the students, their perspective, and a little information on where they went after Room 222 would have been a very cool feature since the students were an integral part of this show.
Note on Disc 1: The set I received disc 1 looks like a second generation copy and is a little dark but the other discs looked as clear as the day they were broadcast (although in a few places there were scratches on the film), but they were minor distractions and didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the shows.
Room 222 may be only for those reliving their childhood but maybe a few people will discover a show that's still relevant and entertaining today, even if it is a bit of time capsule.
The series appeared just a few years after the Civil Rights Movement, and was very valuable in that era in that it portrayed a black man as a respected authority figure. The 26 episodes on this set, covering the 1969-70 season (the first year of the series), examined issues topical at the time such as drugs and dress codes, but also looked at issues in teenage life that are timeless. This DVD set also contains 2009 interviews with Nicholas, Constantine, and the show's creators that look back on the series.
Some have complained about the sound and picture quality on this set, but I didn't mind that at all--I actually thought that the slightly bleached color and snowy picture in some spots made it seem all the more authentic, as if you were sitting down to watch a TV show 40 years ago. I didn't agree with every position that the show took, but thought that "Room 222" was an outstanding high school drama that would likely be enjoyed by teenagers and adults alike.